Alert caused by the presence of ethylene oxide

Alert caused by the presence of ethylene oxide

Ethylene oxide (ETO) is a gas classified as mutagenic, carcinogenic, and toxic to reproduction. In Europe its use as a phytosanitary is prohibited, but in some countries, it is still used as a pesticide in certain agricultural products.

Regulation (EC) 396/2005 of the European Parliament defines ETO as the sum of ethylene oxide and 2-chloro ethanol and sets the maximum limit of 0.02 mg/kg of ethanol in food sold on European territory.

The current situation seen in the news occurs because ETO has been detected in an additive widely used in the ice-cream sector: E-410 or locust bean gum, used as a texturizer. The European Commission has established that all batches of products containing contaminated locust bean gum will be withdrawn from the market, as a safe level of exposure cannot be established.

We want to remember that locust bean gum itself is not harmful, only that which has ETO contamination, and not all ice-creams use it, which means that not all of them are affected by this food alert.

The problem with pesticide residues and specifically with ETO, began to be detected when sesame seeds from India were also affected by different alerts in October 2020. In the analyses that were carried out, values 1000 times higher than the maximum permitted limit were obtained, due to the use of this phytosanitary in plant products. This situation led to the publication of Regulation 2020/1540 on sesame seeds originating in India. As a result of this alert, sesame seeds from India must carry an official certificate to enter the European Union and 50% of the consignments are analyzed.

For now, the alert has only been made for E 410, but we must wait to see the extent of the contamination, as countries such as France have detected it in other products of plant origin.

As with sesame seeds, this alert, and the great impact it has had will surely involve changes in regulations and industries to continue to guarantee consumer’s safety.