two years of product withdrawals and many questions surrounding this toxic fungicide

“Around 18,000 production batches” or “nearly 4,900 product references”: this is the number of foodstuffs that have been recalled by the French Fraud Control (DGCCRF) since 2020.

Numerous recalls in Europe

Ethylene oxide (ETO) is a toxic fungicide classified as a “carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic agent” and banned in Europe. But in September 2020, the Belgian authorities detected this product in batches of sesame seeds imported from India, an agent intended in particular to prevent the foodstuffs from degrading during transport.

The Foodwatch association then ensures that certain foods contain doses of ETO “a thousand times higher than the maximum limit” European. Many tests are conducted, resulting in the recall of a significant number of products across the continent.

The DGCCRF specified that it had processed 517 “alerts” in 2020, mainly on sesame seeds and products containing them (biscuits, breads or prepared meals) and 1,446 alerts in 2021, on ice creams, spices and condiments, food supplements and dietetic foods “incorporating contaminated raw materials”.

“The detection of ETO on guar gum, widely used in the food industry, notably led to massive withdrawal-recall measures in the ice cream sector”, explains the Repression of Fraud. According to other sources, certain products have also been withdrawn from upstream circuits and are therefore not subject to a recall procedure.

“Dozens of countries”

In Belgium, where the first alert originated, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, equivalent to the DGCCRF, carried out 105 product recalls in 2020, and 210 in 2021. Figures which relate “to the number of product recalls, but not on the number of products concerned”.

On the other hand, the services of the European Commission were not able to give an estimate of the number of withdrawals on a continental scale. Not better on the side of the agri-food sector, whether it is Ania in France or Food Drink Europe, its European counterpart.

The American agribusiness giant General Mills, on the other hand, communicated on the financial impact of these withdrawals. The owner of the Häagen-Dazs ice cream brand indicated on the sidelines of its financial results on September 21 that the “voluntary recall of certain products” was going to cost it over the current financial year one point of its “operating profit adjusted for foreign exchange currents”.

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