EU investigates de-icing road salt used in Polish food

Road Salt Poland.jpg

Regulators investigating the use of de-icing road salt in foodstuffs by three Polish companies – and possibly many more – have notified the Commission’s central Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and are checking for dangers to health, EURACTIV can reveal.

The Chief Sanitary Inspectorate of Poland notified RASFF that Polish prosecutors commenced legal action in February against three companies that sold industrial salt as salt intended for human consumption.

The Commission has asked for regular updates from the Polish authorities, who say they have impounded all of the contaminated products and are analysing samples.

The Polish inspectorate confirmed that 555 samples have currently been taken for testing from a range of foods including bread and other bakery products, sauerkraut, pickled onions, a variety of spices, beetroot, horseradish pickles and pickled cucumbers.

No dangerous dioxins or other harmful chemicals have been identified in the salt so far, the Polish Chief Sanitary Inspectorate told EURACTIV.

Case investigated for several weeks

A spokesman said that the case has been under investigation by Pozna? prosecutors for several weeks.

The inspectorate also confirmed that the investigation is focused on five individuals from three companies involved in using the salt – of a quality used to de-ice winter roads – in food products.

“The defendants have not admitted any liability, claiming that they had analytical results confirming that the salt was fit for human consumption,” said a spokesman for the inspectorate.

A preliminary list compiled by prosecutors shows that about 40 other companies are linked to the case, and the inspectorate refused to rule out use of contaminated salt by many more companies.

Companies’ names held back pending investigation

The prosecutors are keen to stress that the fact that many companies bought the industrial salt does not prove they used it in foodstuffs, and refused to name any of the companies involved until actual use of contaminated salt has been confirmed.

The inspectorate also told EURACTIV that inspectors "have stopped all products placed on the market that could contain the contaminated salt" and will continue to do so until tests are completed.

Asked whether any of the suspect salt had been sent to other countries, the spokesman said that exports had been traced to a single distributor in the Netherlands.

The notification of the Commission is the first stage in the Rapid Alert system. Only if any dangers to health are identified will a general alert be transmitted to member states.

The European rapid alert system for food scares was controversially triggered by Germany last summer in relation to Spanish cucumbers at the beginning of the E.Coli crisis.

The bacteria killed 22 Europeans, affected 11 member states and racked up 1,600 recorded cases, 700 of which recorded serious health complications.

Following the scare, Health Commissioner John Dalli said that the effectiveness of the rapid alert system had been discussed by ministers. The Spanish health minister called for the system to be changed.

These discussions are still under way in the EU executive.

  • Polish laboratories to provide final analyses of the products as soon as possible
  • Polish Chief Sanitary InspectorateWebsite

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