Style Already more than 1,000 product recalls for contaminated sesame
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Many sesame seed products from India have been withdrawn rays because they contain ethylene oxide, classified as carcinogenic.
Hummus, chocolate, mash ... so many products containing sesame that were recently recalled from the shelves. These products contained elements classified as carcinogenic. An "alert that should serve as a lesson", according to parliamentarians, who call for tougher import controls. "We are on a scale (...) unprecedented since more than 100 countries are concerned in the world and 20 countries at the European level", denounced Laurent Duplomb, LR senator of Haute-Loire and author of a report on the subject, at a press conference.
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The case dates back to September 9, 2020, when "an Italian operator detects that sesame seeds imported from India contain residues of ethylene oxide, an active substance" banned for food use in the European Union since 1991, details the senator's report.
Once the alert has been issued, checks carried out on these residues show levels "very much higher" than the maximum residue limit (MRL) of 0.05 mg / kg authorized at European level, going up to 186 mg / kg, details the document. This is 3,700 times more than the authorized ceiling, insists Laurent Duplomb, ensuring, however, that no case of intoxication has been reported to date. To explain this, the report mentions the possibility of "preventive treatment by fumigation" in order to reduce other risks such as the presence of salmonella. Or the use of the product as a pesticide during production.
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More than 1,000 recalls
Biscuits, hummus, chopsticks, salads, burger, flour, oils, mash, rusks or still chocolate ... To date, some 1,040 consumer product references - conventional or organic - have been recalled, explains a spokesperson for the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) . "In France, we control all batches of sesame seeds that come from India to check that they are not contaminated with ethylene oxide, and as soon as they are, the batches do not circulate on the market, ”he says. This traceability work "takes a little time", which explains why "we have withdrawals and recalls which can be staggered over time, and we still have them every day", according to him.
"Why did the manufacturers who were sourcing from suppliers in India not simply decide to withdraw everything they had on the market as a precautionary principle, while waiting to be able to carry out checks?" asks Fabienne Loiseau, journalist for the magazine 60 millions de consommateurs who investigated the subject. "It is a scandal by the scale of the phenomenon, it is several hundred tons which are concerned", she affirms. "We are on a real form of naivety at European level and at French level" vis-à-vis our business partners, regrets Senator Duplomb.
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Strengthen national controls
To reduce the risk of importing potentially dangerous products, the senator recommends in particular to tighten European controls , "with perhaps the creation of a European DGCRRF" to increase random checks. Other proposals: strengthen national controls, for example by increasing the resources of the DGCCRF, or even prioritize European supplies. Today, the problem is not limited to sesame seeds alone. "We started to see recalls a few weeks ago of products which did not contain sesame but which nevertheless tested positive for ethylene oxide", affirms Fabienne Loiseau.
"We have started to see psyllium, which is plantin, in food supplements or in gluten-free flours", she lists. But also in amaranth from organic farming, mixtures of Indian spices or even dried shallots, specifies the parliamentary report, raising fears of upcoming alerts on other products "such as herbs and spices". For Laurent Duplomb, "it's not all to prohibit (...) The more we are devoted to imports, the more we have to control if we want to continue to prohibit so strongly certain molecules or certain forms of production" .
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