The action by an EU panel of experts follows discovery of chloride residue in fresh produce and some dairy products in several countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Food sellers and a German safety body, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, have advised European authorities that high residue levels of the two chloride substances were detected in fresh produce and in some dairy products.
On Wednesday (25 July), the European Commission’s Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health announced the temporary ban on sales of fresh goods containing levels of benzalkonium chloride (BAC) higher than 0.5 mg/kg and that any foods found with this level should be removed from the market.
The regulatory body on 13 July reached the same decision with a similar substance, didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). The panel also urged EU member states to investigate possible sources of BAC and DDAC contamination in conventional and organic products.
Businesses in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands recently reported to the commission levels of DDAC exceeding recommended limits of 0.01 mg/kg – in some cases with residue levels as high as 4.3 mg/kg.
Frederic Rosseneu, head of quality and sustainability at Freshfel Europe, which represents the fruit and vegetable suppliers and retailers, said the food sector’s own investigations “contributed to a fast response from the EU Commission and member states.
“The adopted guidelines provide the industry with enough time to further investigate the exact causes of cross-contamination and discontinue any non-essential uses throughout the supply chain,” Rosseneu said in a statement.
Freshfel claims there have been “considerable disruptions in the trade” following discovery of DDAC and BAC traced in fresh produce.
DDAC is regulated under the 2009 law on plant protection products - Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 - though BAC is not. In yesterday’s regulatory action, the Commission panel said it should be assumed the potential risks to consumers are the same with both products.
The substances are commonly used in disinfectants and anti-bacterial soaps. German authorities reported that the recent contamination could be linked to the use of the chlorides in fertilisers and pesticides, according to the Commission’s standing committee.
High levels of the substances are associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation and allergies.