European Commission classify ethylene oxide as a ‘pesticide residue’
The European Commission’s (EC) rapid alert system for food and feed notified the Indian exporting fraternity on April 7 that unauthorised pesticide residue ethylene oxide had been found in salsa dips from Mexico.
The EC’s classification of ethylene oxide as a ‘pesticide residue’ from its previous classification as a ‘fumigant’ was the source of the surprise. From 2023 to 2026, European members will be required to collect and test food samples for the chemical. This year, dried bean, rye, and rice shipments will be tested for ethylene oxide.
Wheat will be examined in 2024, and barley and oats will be examined in 2025. Dried beans, rye, and brown rice will be tested for the chemical in 2026. Every year, EU member states will be required to provide sampling data for this testing.
shipments of sesame
‘By classifying ethylene oxide as a pesticide residue, agricultural products exported to the European Union will now be required to be tested,’ trade analyst S Chandrasekaran explained.
The EC had issued warnings about the presence of ethylene oxide in a number of products. These items had to be recalled.
Sesame (til/gingelly) exports from India were halted at European ports due to the presence of ethylene oxide. Other foods containing the chemical included spices, herbs, and bean gum, which is used as a thickening agent in ice cream.
The EC then clarified that the presence of ethylene oxide in food additives is not permitted, regardless of where the food originated.
The maximum residue limit was set by the commission at 0.1 mg per kg. This includes 2-chloro-ethanol, which is expressed as ethylene oxide in certain additives treated with it. The European Commission has prohibited the use of ethylene oxide for food disinfection.
There is no room for error
The European Commission’s new ethylene oxide standard will now apply to calcium carbonate shipments from India, vanilla extract from the United States, locust bean from Morocco and Malaysia, and tomato ketchup and sauces from Mexico.
The most recent change is in line with the European Union’s zero tolerance policy for products containing potentially harmful substances. If ethylene oxide is found in a raw material, European companies must test the finished product for the presence of the chemical as well.
Some spices in India have been found to contain ethylene oxide. Several sesame shipments were recalled in 2021 due to the presence of ethylene oxide.
The European Commission classified ethylene oxide as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reproductively toxic. Based on the recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Food Safety, the EC established a limit for the chemical’s presence in 2003.