Carcinogen sealed glass jar foods
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15 Oct 2003 15:55:58 GMT
EU assesses risk of chemical found in babyfood jars
BRUSSELS, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Europe's food safety agency called on baby food manufacturers on Wednesday to find different packaging methods and avoid the risk of exposing infants to a mild carcinogen present in glass jar sealants.
The chemical, semicarbazide, has been found in certain foods that were packed in glass bottles closed with metals lids and sealed with airtight plastic gaskets. Along with baby food, these include jams, sauces such as ketchup, and fruit juices.
"The industry has entirely accepted the need to change. They have been alive from the outset to find alternatives that don't have this problem. The work is in hand," said Geoffrey Podger, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
"We are expecting the European Commission to bring forward an action plan that meets our recommendation. This doesn't require mothers to alter feeding habits for babies...but some prudent measures are called for," he told a news conference.
Semicarbazide has been known to chemists for many years but its presence in packaged food was a recent finding, Podger said. It belongs to a family of chemicals called hydrazines which are known to cause cancer in laboratory animals, according to EFSA.
The health risk associated with eating foods containing semicarbazide was very small, it said, adding that no immediate action was required from either consumers or retailers.
After initial concerns about the substance causing cancer in human adults and infants, EFSA had now determined that it posed only a minimal risk -- although some uncertainties remained.
"We are saying that people can go on using these products -- the risk is small, or very small," said Podger.
"We do not have a food crisis here, we are not in that territory."