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Dozens more products removed from supermarket shelves

Belgian supermarkets are once again taking dozens of products off their shelves.  The products contain traces of ethylene oxide.  It’s sometimes used to prevent mould and salmonella, but is banned in the EU.  The move comes after Belgium’s largest recall operation ever last August, when for the same reason an unprecedented number of products were removed from supermarket shelves.

Then some 200 products were concerned.  Today more products have been added to the list compiled by the Federal Food Safety Agency FAVV including cooked ham, schnitzel cordon bleu, wraps, pasta and salad bowls.

Consuming ethylene oxide as a one-off shouldn’t be a problem.  Problems arise when the product is consumed over a length of time agency officials say: “Consuming large quantities on a daily basis may threaten your health and could even lead to cancer.”

Last August most of the affected products contained sesame.  Today locust bean gum is the issue. Even if products contain merely a small trace of ethylene oxide, they still need to be withdrawn from sale according to a recent EU decision.

The FAVV is today carrying out more checks, but so are food manufacturers, who are checking the ingredients they import from outside the EU for the presence of ethylene oxide

“As only small quantities of ethylene oxide are used in the finished product, a broad range of foods are concerned” says the FAVV. “When a polluted product is discovered the agency traces where else it has been used to ensure all affected products can be withdrawn”.

Supermarket chain Delhaize says that in a regular year some 15 products need to be removed from supermarket shelves.  This year the figure is already 50. Rival Colruyt speaks of 7 own band products and 12 national brand products that are affected now.

The recall operation is set to cost the food producers millions. Customers and consumers both need to be compensated.  Affected products need to be destroyed in a sustainable way.  Insurance will foot the bill for some of the costs, but food will definitely be lost.

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