Heinz has withdrawn two baby food products after the detection of unusually high levels of plasticisers thought to be caused by seepage from screw-cap seals.
An investigation by the consumer group Choice found more than half the 25 common jar-packaged foods it tested were contaminated with the plastic-softening chemical linked to liver conditions, genital defects and allergies in children.
Choice said two other manufacturers, Leggo’s and Always Fresh, were demanding explanations from their suppliers.
One product tested contained 230 times the level considered safe under the European Union standard of nine parts per million for adults and 1.5 parts per million for children. Australia, however, has no standard mandating a safe level for plasticisers, which include a range of phthalates and epoxidised soybean oil.
One jar of tandoori paste recorded 350 parts per million.
A Heinz spokeswoman said testing showed the fat content of its infants’ range of Globetrotters Butter Chicken and Delights Lemon Crème could have caused the epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO) from the jars’ seals to migrate to the contents. The products had been voluntarily withdrawn in March, she said, when Choice first contacted the company over its findings.
“Despite the apparent lack of toxicological and health implications of minute amounts of ESBO in food products, Heinz is investigating a viable alternative to the current lids and believes it is acting responsibly to ensure that all of our food products remain as pure as possible,” the spokeswoman said.
A Choice spokesman, Christopher Zinn, said while the products tested probably posed no immediate health danger, the long-term health implications of plasticisers migrating into foods was a serious problem which needed to be rectified by Australian regulators. “The food industry needs to find alternatives to ESBO and phthalates that are known to be safe, and [food authorities] should ensure the Food Standards Code sets limits for plasticisers in food,” he said.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand chief scientist, Paul Brent, said the authority had already conducted preliminary risk assessments on plasticides and had concluded that consumption of foods affected was unlikely to pose a health risk.
The authority was nevertheless reviewing its approach to regulating food packaging materials, Dr Brent said.
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