Food Law News - UK - 1999

1 August 1999: CONTAMINANTS - Industry Alerted to Contaminant Levels in Soy Sauce

FSA News Release (18/99), 1 August 1999

Industry Alerted to Contaminant Levels in Soy Sauce

The Joint Food Safety and Standards Group has contacted trade associations and relevant suppliers in the UK alerting them to reports from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden about unacceptably high levels of the substance 3-MCPD (3-monchloropropanediol) in some soy sauces. The specific samples in question were imported from China and were obtained from catering establishments.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said:
"It is possible that these or similar products are also available in the UK. The food and retail industry generally, and soy sauce suppliers in particular, have therefore been contacted asking them to ensure that their products comply with the UK's recommended limit for 3-MCPD of 10 parts per billion. I have also instructed that a special survey of soy sauces on sale in the UK should be conducted by the JFSSG as soon as possible to check whether any more specific action is required."

3-MCPD is the most common of a group of chemical contaminants known as chloropropanols. It is formed during the manufacture of the savoury food ingredient, acid-hydrolysed vegetable protein (acid-HVP). It may also occur in some foods and ingredients as a result of processing, storage conditions or migration from certain food contact materials. As it has been shown to cause cancer in rats when fed at high doses over prolonged periods of time, it is clearly sensible to take all reasonable steps to keep it out of the food supply. The Food Advisory Committee has recommended since 1996 that industry take steps to ensure that 3-MCPD is not detectable in foods or food ingredients, when analysed by a suitably sensitive method of detecting 10 parts per billion (ppb). This advice has been confirmed in 1998 and, most recently, in May 1999.

Results obtained in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands indicate that some soy sauce samples contain 3-MCPD at levels between 6 and 145 parts per million (ppm). These findings were circulated to all other EU member states under the Rapid Alert System for Foodstuffs. This is a communications network administered by the European Commission which allows action on food safety taken by one member state to be followed up across the EU.

The survey of soy sauce will be carried out as quickly as possible, in advance of a larger JFSSG survey of 3-MCPD in foods and food ingredients which was already planned for later in the year.

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