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54 of 527 items red-flagged for cancer-causing chemical labelled 'organic'

The European Union introduced the restriction on the use of ethylene oxide in 1991 but the increase in imports has prompted authorities to step up vigilance.
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 10:23 IST
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 10:23 IST

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Bengaluru: Of the 527 products red-flagged by the European Union countries, at least 54 were marked 'organic' on their labels -- from sesame seeds to black pepper and ashwagandha, while others contained labels like "premium immunity enhancers".

A look at the full list of the products, many of which were issued rejection notices, shows the spread of the chemical across the products. Be it the hummus made in Spain by adding sesame seeds from India, or bakery items, and even herbal food supplements, the chemical was found to be everywhere.

The European Union introduced the restriction on the use of ethylene oxide in 1991 but the increase in imports has prompted authorities to step up vigilance. As per the official reports, the EU has said ethylene oxide was a genotoxic carcinogen "where no safe level can be established" when it comes to its presence in products, especially food items.

The EU authorities reported ethylene oxide contamination in 468 items imported from several countries, including India, in 2020-21. Finding the toxic chemical in locust bean gum, used as a food additive in a wide variety of products, "led to the biggest ever food recall operation in EU history".

Interestingly, the United States woke up to the issue much later. In February this year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of the US invited public comments on a proposal that limits ethylene oxide in food additives. This was done to align with EU standards, where products from all countries have come under scrutiny.

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Published 24 April 2024, 10:23 IST

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