Danone acts over Romanian dioxin fears

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Danone

Danone has played down fears over the safety of some of its yoghurt
products as it becomes the latest European company to be hit by
concerns over possible dioxin contamination in guar gum.

The group, one of Europe's lead dairy and food producers, said it had confined a batch of its fruit yoghurts at a Romanian warehouse and other points in the distribution network, under the supervision of sanitary-veterinary authorities. Last month, the European Commission informed member states of fears about dioxin levels in guar gum supplied by Switzerland's Unipektin, after it was discovered to contain between 12 and 156 pictograms of dioxin per gram of fat, according to Swissinfo. This is way over the EU accepted level of one to six pictograms. Though Danone said it had not itself been using guar gum in its products, it revealed that it had concerns about some outsourced ingredients. "In fruit yogurts, the fruit preparation, manufactured by a Czech producer, contained a very small quantity of guar gum originating inIndia,​" the group said in a statement. Guar gum is most commonly used in meat, dairy, dessert and delicatessen products. The fears highlight the problems of using out-sourced ingredients, with producers facing the possibility of removing or cutting supplies of their goods over health concerns. Toxic dioxins are formed as by-products of industrial processes involving chlorine, such as pesticide manufacturing and waste incineration. They have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects, and immune disorders. Samples of the remanded batch are currently being tested at a European reference laboratory for the presence of dioxin, with the results expected back next week. Having suspended the use of the suspect guar gum, Danone said the yoghurts now complied with relevant EU standards and no longer posed a danger to consumers. Unipektin said that since guar gum is highly diluted in food products, "there is no acute health risk for consumers."​ The FSA also downplayed the risk: "Based on the information so far available, there is no immediate health risk to consumers, but as these chemicals have the potential for a range of toxic effects, people shouldn't be exposed to them unnecessarily." ​This has failed to prevent a consumer concerns against products containing the gum though. Earlier this month, foods were recalled from supermarket shelves in France, Germany and Switzerland, according to media reports. In Hungary, a batch of contaminated food was said to have been intercepted before distribution to stores.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Danone

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