HK, Singapore food regulators red flag 'cancer-causing' ingredient in certain MDH, Everest spices

by IANS |



New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) Food regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore have warned people against using four products from two big spice brands --- three from MDH and one from Everest -- over the presence of ethylene oxide at “levels exceeding the permissible limit”.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified ethylene oxide as a 'Group 1 carcinogen'.


In a statement posted on its website on April 5, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS), Hong Kong’s food regulatory authority, said that three spice products of MDH -- Madras Curry Powder (spice blend for Madras Curry), Sambhar Masala (Mixed Masala Powder), and Curry Powder (Mixed Masala Powder) -- along with Everest’s Fish Curry Masala contain “a pesticide, ethylene oxide".


Both MDH and Everest Foods were yet to comment on the food regulators’ claims.


Under its routine food surveillance programme, the CFS took the products from three retail outlets in Hong Kong.


“The test results showed that the samples contained a pesticide, ethylene oxide,” said to a CFS spokesperson.


The regulator instructed the vendors “to stop the sale and remove from shelves the affected products”.


Recalls have been initiated on the products, it said.


“According to the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap. 132CM), food for human consumption containing pesticide residue may only be sold if consumption of the food is not dangerous or prejudicial to health. An offender is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction," the CFS spokesperson said.


The CFS noted that “investigations are ongoing” and “appropriate action” may be initiated in the matter.


Meanwhile, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) also ordered a recall of Everest's Fish Curry Masala due to the presence of ethylene oxide at levels “exceeding the permissible limit”.


The SFA posted a release on its website on April 18 that said it “has directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons Pte. Ltd., to recall the products. The recall is ongoing.”


The SFA noted that ethylene oxide is not fit for consumption, but is “used to fumigate agricultural products to prevent microbial contamination”.


However, under Singapore’s food regulations, ethylene oxide can be “used in the sterilisation of spices”.


While there is no immediate risk to eating foods “with low levels of ethylene oxide, long-term exposure may lead to health issues”, said the SFA, noting that exposure to the “substance should be minimised as much as possible”.


It also advised people who bought the product to not “consume it”, and those who have concerns about their health after consumption must “seek medical advice”.


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen. It causes cancer”.



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