EU Authorities Find Ethylene Oxide In 527 Indian Food Items

Between the period of September 2020 and April 2024, food safety authorities of the European Union have identified 527 food products linked to India, containing the presence of a toxic chemical. Known as ethylene oxide, the colourless gas is typically used as a pesticide and sterilizing agent. According to the data collected from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), most of the food products containing the toxic gas comprises of nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, diet food products and miscellaneous products.

A total of 313 cases were flagged with regards to contamination in nuts and sesame seeds, whereas herbs and spices as well as diet food cases were totalled to 60 and 48 respectively. Other products like black peppercorns and ashwagandha which were labelled ‘organic’ were also found to contain the chemical, in addition to other product labels selling themselves as  ‘premium immunity enhancers’. The RASFF – which is an online food safety system set up to trace the safety standards of EU member countries, shared its report hot on the heels of countries like Hong Kong and Singapore banning Indian food products for the same reason.

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Although the EU banned the use of ethylene oxide in 1991, routine checks by the European Food Safety Authority have flagged the issue with Indian food products using the chemical. The increase in imports have also led them to step-up their vigilance as a result of which 468 food products were declared contaminated in 2020-21. Moreover, the use of locust bean gum – another toxic chemical, was also found being used in a large number of Indian products, leading to a food recall of historic proportions.