PHILIPPINES – The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into the recall of a popular Filipino noodle brand in Europe and Taiwan due to the presence of ethylene oxide.
In separate advisories, the governments of Ireland, Malta, and France recalled several variants of Lucky Me! noodle soup and pancit canton, particularly those manufactured between 2021 and 2022.
These variants include the original, hot chili, kalamansi, and chilimansi flavors of Lucky Me! Pancit Canton, as well as Lucky Me! beef mami flavor.
“The FDA is currently investigating this matter and coordinating with the aforementioned food business operator to check its compliance. We shall provide updates on the result of investigation for public information,” said Oscar Gutierrez, FDA officer-in-charge in a statement dated.
Ethylene oxide is a processing aid used to disinfect herbs and spices. Its use for sterilizing purpose is not allowed in Europe, due to health concerns associated with residues that may remain in foods until they are consumed.
Safer alternatives, such as food irradiation or steam treatment, are increasingly being used to replace fumigation with ethylene oxide.
“There can still be traces from the ingredients or raw materials. Hence, the EU has set a maximum residue levels at a very low level based on the type of commodity,” Gutierrez said.
Lucky Me manufacturer and owner Monde Nissin clarified via a statement that it was not intentionally adding ethylene oxide in its noodle products.
“It is a commonly used treatment in spices and seeds to control microbial growth typical in agricultural products. These materials, when processed into seasoning and sauces, may still show traces of ethylene oxide,” the company said.
Monde Nissin assured that all Lucky Me! products are registered with the Philippine FDA, complying with local food safety standards and “even the US FDA standards for ethylene oxide.”
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, consuming ethylene oxide outside of its safety threshold can result in nausea, vomiting, loose bowel movement, and difficulty in breathing “at its worst”.
“We should always inspect the food we buy and check if it was cleared and approved by the FDA. The FDA always monitors the food we consume and guarantees food being sold in markets is safe, of quality, and has no chemicals such as these,” she said in a televised briefing.