The immediate suspension precedes a risk assessment of the jelly mini cup products by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). A move that could lead to a complete ban on all food additives used in jelly mini cups across Europe.
"Safety labelling on these products is not enough to protect children's health," said David Byrne, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, claiming that removing these products from the shelves gives the extra protection needed while EFSA and the Commission evaluate the use of additives in jelly mini-cups.
'As from today manufacturers are banned from using all additives in jelly mini-cups, » a Commission spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com yesterday. Before it was konjac, now it is all additives, the spokesperson added.
The Commission decision covers the food additives: E 400 alginic acid, E 401 sodium alginate, E 402 potassium alginate, E 403 ammonium alginate, E 404 calcium alginate, E 405 propane 1,2-diol alginate, E 406 agar, E 407 carrageenan, E 407a processed euchema seaweed, E 410 locust bean gum, E 412 guar gum, E 413 tragacanth, E 414 acacia gum, E 415 xanthan gum, E 417 tara gum and/or E 418 gellan gum.
Alarm bells rang in March 2002 when the EU, following other regulatory bodies across the world, suspended the fruit gel sweets, traditionally manufactured in South-East Asia, from the European market following reports that they could pose a risk of death by choking, particularly to children and old people. More precisely, the suspension related to jelly minicups containing E 425 konjac, konjac gum or konjac glucomannan.
In 2003 Parliament cleared a permanent ban on the food additive E 425 konjac in jelly confectionery. But the regulatory bodies have not banned konjac, an additive used in a range of food formulations.
«The use of konjac in many food preparations is totally without danger, providing that the industrial process conforms to current legislation," said Philippe Vieille, managing director of Kalys, a French konjac supplier.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency will implement the Commission decision by the end of the week.
"The statutory implementation has not yet been signed off by the ministers," a spokesperson for the UK food watchdog FSA said to FoodNavigator.com, "Once this occurs [due at the end of the week] FSA will start procedures for withdrawal."
Fears that jelly mini-cups with food additives, not just konjac, pose a health risk will have certainly prompted the Commission move. Earlier this month through the Rapid Alert System for food and feed (RASFF), Europe's network tool for food safety agencies and governments to exchange information on measures taken to ensure food is safe, Germany reported on the 'suffocation risk as a result of the swallowing of mini fruit bites.'
Jelly mini cups are already banned in France, and some have also been outlawed in Germany.