Contaminated sesame seeds from India trigger mass product recalls

Residues of the potentially carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide have been detected in sesame seeds from India. Keystone / Mohammed Ballas

The Swiss authorities have ordered recalls of several food products containing sesame seeds imported from India owing to pesticide concerns.  

This content was published on December 18, 2020 - 11:15

In recent weeks a number of products like muesli, sesame sauces and sesame seeds have been recalled in Switzerland. This is because residues of the potentially carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide have been detected in them.  

The cause of the problem lies in India, said Mark Stauber of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office in an interview with Swiss public radio, SRF. The food safety authorities suspect that in India containers with the sesame seeds inside are fumigated with the ethylene oxide before export. The pesticide is banned in Switzerland and the European Union.  

Even products with an organic label had traces of ethylene oxide. According to Stauber, all the containers were probably treated with ethylene oxide indiscriminately. No distinction was made between organic and conventionally produced sesame. 

All new shipments of sesame seeds from India are now seized as a precaution and released when analysis shows that they are uncontaminated. The EU has also stepped up its checks.  

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