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Toxin found in babyfood

Last updated on: October 18, 2003 01:44 IST

A dangerous toxin has been discovered in a range of products-including babyfood-packaged in  in glass jars and bottles, reports the Times newspaper in London

The alarm was raised on Wednesday after experts at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the discovery of semicarbazide, which can damage DNA, in a range of products, including jams, ketchup, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, honey, some fruit juices, sauce and babyfood.

Semicarbazide has been linked to cancers, liver damage, miscarriages and birth deformities in animals. Experts in Brussels and London believe the risks are small, but so little is known about semicarbazide or its threat to human health that many consumers may decide to boycott some products, the paper said on Thursday.

The EFSA said the toxin was getting into food through the plastic gaskets used to seal glass jars with metal twist-off lids. Scientists believe SEM is produced during the heat treatment used to make the gaskets. The chemical then migrates from the plastic into the food, said Dr Sue Barlow, who heads a EFSA appointed panel to investigate the issue.

An  EFSA scientific panel said very low levels of the substance have been detected and that there is no reason to change current dietary habits, including for babies. However, as it is undesirable to have any level present in foods, and in baby foods in particular, food manufacturers have been instructed to find new methods of packaging to prevent such contamination, but this is likely to take time to implement.

In the meanwhile, EFSA said parents who wanted to avoid glass jars and bottles of baby foods should look at frozen, tinned and packets of dried baby food. It has published practical suggestions on its website on how parents might make their own baby food.