Spain also recalls ice cream containing carcinogens

The State does not clarify which brands are affected or whether the products have reached the shops

3 min
The authorities are forcing the withdrawal of the products but have not made the list public.

ParisAfter France recalled up to 90 different brands of ice cream because they contained more ethylene oxide than allowed in ice cream, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) issued a statement on Tuesday night announcing that in the Spanish state there are also products contaminated by this compound. Although the European Union banned the use of ethylene dioxide in 2011, there are countries like India that still use it. "Ethylene oxide was used to disinfect species and then it was discovered that, among other things, it was carcinogenic", says Lluís Riera, Director of the food consultancy SAIA, who adds that companies around the world buy food products in India.

The AESAN recalls in a press release that, "in compliance with food legislation", companies "have to withdraw products made with this additive from the marketing chain", which is used as a stabiliser for ice cream. However, it has not clarified in the statement or to ARA if these products have reached the shelves of supermarkets or simply have been withdrawn in distribution warehouses. In the event that these contaminated ice creams had reached the freezers of citizens, companies are obliged to contact by all possible means, the affected consumers and also make dissemination through social networks and the media. Also, of course, they have to issue refunds and cannot send the batches of food to other countries where ethylene oxide is not banned. The AESAN is not aware of any company that has done so.

No brand names

Although the AESAN has announced that all the affected batches of products are being withdrawn from the market, it has assured ARA that it does not know which and how many brands are affected. In any case, it points out that it is the autonomous communities that are responsible for ensuring that companies withdraw these products and that, therefore, they must be aware of which brands are affected.

ARA has asked Salut if they were aware of this, and they have only responded that, indeed, "the companies involved are proceeding to the withdrawal of products from the market by the precautionary principle" and that "the use of the additive is identified in the development of different products can be decided on each case". The AESAN also assures that once "all the information is compiled, it will be made public".

Normally, when a contaminated product is detected, a notice is registered in the European Alerts Network (RASFF) and, thus, all countries (and consumers) are aware of it. In this case, however, this has not been done. Spain has not registered any alert in the RASFF and neither did France, where 90 types of ice cream have already been withdrawn. According to AESAN sources, the affected states decided to coordinate specifically for this case and not do it through the RASFF, because it would "congest the alarm system".

In other cases, as in the latest alert of the AESAN, the product and the specific brand, including the lot, of the affected food is reported. This is also the case in France, which has even opened a website and several accounts on social networks to keep consumers informed about all kinds of alerts, with the names of the brands, including those affected by ethylene oxide contamination.

The case of products containing more ethylene oxide than the European authorities mark comes from afar. It was first detected in Belgium, in November, and all the alarms went off. "Automatically, when this happens, all EU countries are warned and the batches of affected products are withdrawn", says Riera. France has been one of the countries that has withdrawn more products, more than 7,000 according to the French newspaper Le Figaro but in November Catalonia was also affected. "Many companies and chains had to recall products", adds Riera.

Ethylene oxide is used to disinfect spices and seeds such as sesame, sesame seed, psyllium (a plant that only grows in India) and carob flour, which is used as a stabiliser and thickener for ice cream, for example. These ingredients are part of the recipe of many products, which is why the number of contaminated foods in France is so high.

Since then the Union has been much more vigilant and has laid down special conditions for the import of such seeds: all consignments of sesame have to be accompanied by an official certificate stating that they have been sampled and analysed, according to the regulations, and the frequency of checks has been increased.