France recalls sesame seed products due to toxic pesticide

Products from major brands including Carrefour, Monoprix and Bonne Maman have been recalled due to high levels of the carcinogen ethylene oxide

4 November 2020
By Hannah Thompson

Products that contain sesame seeds sold in major supermarkets in France have been recalled as they have been found to contain high levels of the carcinogen and pesticide ethylene oxide.

Sesame seeds are often added to baked products, and used in hummus and salads, due to their nutritional content and richness in vitamins, iron and antioxidants.

However 250 tonnes of sesame seeds, originally from India, have been recalled by the French health authorities due to a “high contamination” of ethylene oxide.

Authorities were first alerted to the issue by their equivalent team in Belgium.

Ethylene oxide is a pesticide known to have cancer-causing effects, and can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and damage to the brain and nervous system. Ethylene oxide exposure has also been linked to reproductive damage.

In France, the amount of ethylene oxide permitted in food is 0.05mg per kilogram.

The levels found in the affected batch of seeds are up to 1,000 times this limit, said consumer watchdog group UFC-Choisir.

Investigations into the contamination have found that the 250 tonnes of seeds were sent out in 34 different batches. Health authorities in France are now working with their equivalent teams across the European Union to ensure all of the affected products are recalled.

Fraud and consumer office la Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) has published a list of products that contain the contaminated seeds. See the full list here.

It already includes products from major brands sold in France, including Picard, Gerblé, St Michel, Bonne Maman, Pierre Martinet, Dukan, Odyssée (Intermarché), Bio Village (Leclerc), Lindt, Monoprix, Lidl, Auchan, Casino, and Carrefour.

Products include biscuits, spice mixes, pre-packed sandwiches, crackers, granola, bagels, energy bars, salads, and bread.

The website also has a link to an Excel document that shows the exact batches and best-before dates of all the products concerned.

The list is regularly being updated as investigations continue.

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