The European Commission (EC) has issued a warning to all its member states on 25 July against buying raw material from India for manufacturing food additives. This follows the discovery of guar flour contaminated with cancer causing substances such as dioxins, furans and pentachlorphenol.

The warning came after a Swiss producer of food additives, Unipektin, blamed Indian exporters for the contamination and recalled several batches of its food additive from the market, based on an analysis done by a German lab that found 12 to 156 picograms of dioxin per gm of fat.

India exported guar gum worth Rs1,275 crore in 2006-07

Unipektin said that a few of the contaminated samples came from guar flour imported from India Glycols Ltd.

Lalit Kumar Sharma, company secretary of India Glycols, said that auditors had come to take samples from its facility after the contamination was detected, but denied any presence of carcinogens in its guar flour.

“Unipektin has been buying guar flour from us for the past two years and we have never received any complaint. It has even bought from us after the news (of the contamination)," Sharma added.

India Glycols supplies guar flour to 10 countries in Europe, Australia and Japan. India exported guar gum worth Rs1,275 crore in 2006-07. In a release, Unipektin said it buys the raw materials that go into its guar additives from India.

According to A. Premchand, senior scientist at Hyderabad’s Vimta Labs Ltd, one of India’s most sophisticated testing laboratories, Indian laws do not require “testing exports for dioxins". He added that this testing “is very cumbersome and costly. One test costs about Rs30,000-40,000 because dioxin presence is toxic even at one part per trillion, which makes the test expensive".

Vimta has the only laboratory in the country that has the equipment to test dioxins at the one part per trillion level.