Of the food samples monitored by customs at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, five contained ethylene oxide, a biocide that is harmful to health and banned in the EU.
– Ethylene oxide was found in sesame seeds, nut products containing sesame seeds and organic psyllium powder. Although the amounts found were not particularly high in relation to the controlled product batches, the findings show the importance of monitoring. Jonna Neffling, Product Safety Manager at Finnish Customs.
Ethylene oxide should not be present in foods at all, as it can cause serious health problems with long-term use. It is classified as a hazardous substance that causes cancer and cell mutations and is toxic to reproduction. However, in some parts of the world, ethylene oxide is used as a biocide, for example in the sterilization of seeds and spices. Its use for this purpose is banned in the EU.
Some of the foodstuffs inspected by customs that contained ethylene oxide came from the EU. part from outside the EU. To date, Customs has investigated 30 different product batches for ethylene oxide. Monitoring has been targeted, inter alia, on the basis of observations from other Member States.
The increase in observations has caused concern in the EU since last year
In autumn 2020, several EU countries found alarmingly high levels of ethylene oxide in sesame seeds imported from India. Since then, the substance has been found in several other foods such as spices and food supplements. With the increase in findings, more attention has been paid to monitoring and analytical methods have been developed in many EU countries.
-In Customs, monitoring of ethylene oxides in food began at the end of 2020. We monitor both food declared outside the EU and food entering intra-EU trade. These foods have been selected for inspections based on a risk assessment. Monitoring is done as part of normal food controls, Neffling says.
In the future, ethylene oxide monitoring will improve when the customs laboratory’s own research method is completed.
– Ethylene oxide has been studied by the customs laboratory in the past, but when the need for monitoring decreased, the studies were abandoned about twenty years ago. Recent findings indicate that monitoring is needed again. With our own method, we can make monitoring even more efficient. This will enable us to better facilitate food safety and prevent harmful substances from reaching consumers’ plates, Pirjo Sainio The head of the customs laboratory decides.
Source: Finnish Customs
Source: The Nordic Page