FSA News Item (R467-33), 21 August 2002
A Food Standards Agency survey of soy sauce used in catering outlets has revealed significantly fewer samples containing unacceptable levels of the chemical 3-MCPD than in a retail survey published by the FSA last year.
Only 2% of samples surveyed - 6 out of 273 - contained levels of 3-MCPD above the recently introduced European legal limit. This compares to 22% - 22 out of 100 - of soy sauces sold directly to consumers which were tested by the Agency last year. 3-MCPD is a chemical contaminant found at low levels in many foods as a result of processing and can cause cancer in laboratory animals when fed to them at high levels over their lifetime. 3-MCPD could cause harm to people who eat products containing high levels of it in most of their meals over a long period of time.
Steven Wearne, Head of Chemical Contaminants at the Food Standards Agency said:
'We carried out this survey to investigate levels of 3-MCPD in soy sauce used in restaurants and takeaways, and are pleased to see that levels are generally much lower than found last year in soy sauce sold directly to the public. This is positive news, but there is still a very small number of unacceptable findings. The Agency is taking immediate action to ensure that the contaminated products are removed from use.
'There is no need for people to be wary of Chinese food or Chinese restaurants and takeaways as a result of these findings. Not only is the number of unacceptable samples very low, but you would need to be regularly eating soy sauce with very high levels of 3-MCPD over a long period of time for it to have an adverse affect on your health.'
Of the six unacceptable samples of soy sauce from catering outlets, three had levels of 3-MCPD between two and ten times the legal limit, but the other three had levels over 1000 times greater than the limit. All of the six products from which samples were taken have been removed from use in the catering outlets where they were found. There is no reason for people to avoid eating at these or any other outlets.
The Food Standards Agency is taking further action where possible to ensure that these products are removed from wider use and distribution and has today issued a Food Hazard Warning to Local Authorities alerting them to the unacceptable products. The Agency has also approached the importers, owners of affected catering outlets and other Chinese organisations directly.
The affected products are believed to have been imported from China. It is alleged that some of the products are counterfeit and so may be falsely labelled as being products of China.
A regulatory limit of 0.02 mg/kg for 3-MCPD in soy sauce came into force on the 5 April 2002 in all EC countries. (European Commission Regulation (EC) No 466/2001)