60 products removed from shelves in widespread food recall

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About 60 products have been recalled due to contamination with a carcinogen in one of the most widespread recalls to date, the Department of Health said on Tuesday.

Ethylene oxide was first detected on sesame seeds in Belgium in 2020 – from India – and has since been found in a widely used thickening agent, locust bean gum and others. foodstuffs, leading to the removal of thousands of products from shelves across the EU.

In Malta, the products recalled so far are lots of popular brands of ice cream, such as Twix, Toblerone and Milka, alternative milks, crackers, cookies, cream, cream cheese and noodles. snapshots.

However, in other EU member states spices, vegetables, grains and oils are part of a range of other products that have also been affected.

“The ethylene oxide problem is certainly one of the most prevalent local recalls, as several products from various companies are involved,” said Ministry of Health spokeswoman Roberta Fenech.

While ethylene oxide is used to disinfect food in a number of countries outside the European Union area, it is not permitted in EU food production and residues in foods violate European food law.

Fenech explained that the publicly available information on the hazard profile of the substance indicates that it is a genotoxic carcinogen, for which no safe threshold can be established.

In most cases the levels of ethylene oxide are very low and sometimes not even detectable in the final product but according to the European Union if the level of ethylene oxide in the raw material exceeds the level of 0.1 mg / kg, it should be remembered, she said.

Agricultural chemistry professor Everaldo Attard said Malta timetables that a genotoxic carcinogen damages DNA and turns a normal cell into a cancerous cell.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the cell will cause cancer, he explained, since our bodies are set up to regularly repair DNA defects.

This also does not mean that ingesting a product contaminated with ethylene oxide would put the person in great danger, he added.

“There would be a problem if these products were consumed regularly,” he said.

When asked why Malta has recalled 60 products when other EU member states like France have recalled more than 7,000, Attard said Malta’s market is much smaller and important. a limited range of products.

Matthew Attard, commercial director of Francis Busuttil and Sons, which imports a line of popular ice cream, said the company only had to recall batches of five products due to the contamination, namely the Twix, Bounty and Snickers sixpacks. and Snickers and Twix. ice cream bars.

“Fortunately, the recall involved a limited number of lots of which we had stock that was still in our warehouse and put on hold as soon as we were made aware of the problem.

“This limited the distribution of the affected lots on the market,” he said.

Attard said that while the contaminant levels were low, the recall was being treated seriously in accordance with the law and with the best interests of consumers at heart.

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