Agency issues warning on erucic acid
Thursday 2 September 2004
The Food Standards Agency is advising people not to eat particular pickles, sauces and preserved vegetables imported from Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and India, following a survey that showed that some products contained illegally high levels of erucic acid.
Eight out of 71 samples of pickles, sauces and preserved vegetables were found to contain levels of erucic acid exceeding the UK legal limit. These are in addition to several products found to have high levels of erucic acid in an earlier survey by Birmingham City Council.
The Food Standards Agency is advising against eating all the products identified as having illegal levels of erucic acid in both surveys. The full list of affected products is attached below. If you have any of these pickles, sauces or preserves you should throw them away.
Erucic acid is a substance naturally found in some oils derived from plants, primarily in some varieties of mustard seed oil and rapeseed oil. Although there have been no confirmed cases of erucic acid toxicity in humans, high levels of erucic acid have been linked to the formation of fatty deposits in heart muscle in animals.
The affected products were found mostly in small food shops and cash and carrys serving local ethnic communities. The products include varieties of preserved chilli beans, mango pickle and minced green chilli paste.
Andrew Wadge, Director of Food Safety at the FSA, said: 'As well as asking local authorities to act to remove these packets and jars from sale and to ensure similar products sold in their areas don't break the law, we are also talking to the importers of these foods to highlight the concerns about high levels of erucic acid and to identify the source of the problem.'
The FSA survey sampled small shops and cash and carry premises and the Agency has asked local authorities to investigate the distribution of any of the affected products to retail and catering outlets.
If you have occasionally eaten any of these products it is highly unlikely that you will have added to your risk of developing heart disease. In addition, some limited animal studies have suggested that any fatty deposits that might have formed around the heart following consumption of high levels of erucic acid will gradually disappear once erucic acid consumption is reduced.
FHWs are the FSA's way of letting local authorities and the public know about problems associated with food and, in some cases, they provide details of specific action to be taken.
They are also copied to consultants in communicable disease control, trading standards officers and food trade organisations, to alert them to current food issues.
FHWs are currently issued under four categories:
A: For Immediate Action
B: For Action
C: For Action as Deemed Necessary
D: For Information