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European Union's food safety shares list of cancer-causing chemicals, 527 Indian items included

Of the 527 Indian-origin products marked, 332 had India as their sole nation of origin, with the remainder labeled with other countries.

European Union's food safety shares list of cancer-causing chemicals, 527 Indian items included RKK
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First Published Apr 29, 2024, 5:07 PM IST

The European Union's food safety experts discovered the cancer-causing component ethylene oxide in 527 Indian-origin foods. The problem was discovered when prominent Indian spice brands, such as MDH and Everest, were found to have ethylene oxide levels over the permitted limit. This resulted in a ban on certain items in Hong Kong and Singapore, and the European Union has now taken similar measures, exposing the extent of the contamination.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas that is extensively used as a pesticide and sterilizing agent. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized it as a Group 1 carcinogen, suggesting that it is harmful to humans. Ethylene oxide exposure has been linked to an increased risk of malignancies such as lymphoma and leukemia.

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The infected products were diverse, with the majority consisting of nuts and sesame seeds (313), herbs and spices (60), dietetic meals (48), and other miscellaneous food items (34).

Of the 527 products marked, 332 had India as their single nation of origin, with the remainder labeled with other countries. From September 2020 to April 2024, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) tested a wide range of food goods, including nuts, sesame seeds, herbs, spices, dietetic foods, and other miscellaneous things. The testing revealed that a significant proportion of these products had ethylene oxide, prompting the EU to implement regulatory actions in response to this contamination.

FSSAI reacts

In reaction to the European Union's (EU0 discovery of carcinogenic substances in Indian food items, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched extensive quality tests on the implicated spices and other food products to ensure they fulfill safety standards.

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