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Business News/ Science / Health/  Do MDH, Everest masala cause cancer? Why have Hong Kong, Singapore banned some Indian spices? Explained
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Do MDH, Everest masala cause cancer? Why have Hong Kong, Singapore banned some Indian spices? Explained

Hong Kong has banned three MDH and one Everest-branded spice powder, and Singapore has banned Everest's Fish curry masala. They allege the presence of ethylene oxide at levels surpassing permissible limits. They have advised consumers to avoid using them and seek medical advice if they consume them.

Hong Kong and Singapore have found ethylene oxide, a potential cancer-causing agent, in MDH and Everest spice products. (Pexels)Premium
Hong Kong and Singapore have found ethylene oxide, a potential cancer-causing agent, in MDH and Everest spice products. (Pexels)

Hong Kong recently banned several spice variants manufactured by MDH and one by Everest Food Products. The decision came after authorities of the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region reportedly found the presence of the cancer-causing pesticide ethylene oxide in the spice mixes.

MDH’s Madras Curry Powder, Sambhar Masala Mixed Masala Powder and Curry Powder Mixed Masala Powder are banned in Hong Kong now. So is Everest’s Fish Curry Masala.

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The CFS had collected food samples from three stores in Tsim Sha Tsui for regular testing and found ethylene oxide in the samples. The CFS had told the stores about the issue and asked them to stop selling and remove these products from their shelves.

The distributors and importers had started recalling these products. A CFS spokesperson said in a release on April 5 that people could call the hotlines provided during office hours for more information about the recalls.

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Ethylene oxide is recognised as a top-level cancer-causing substance by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. According to food safety laws, foods with pesticide residues can only be sold if they are safe to eat. If someone breaks this rule, they could face up to a $50,000 fine and six months in jail, the spokesperson added.

Singapore bans Everest products

After Hong Kong’s directive, Singapore has also followed suit. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons, to recall Everest Fish Curry Masala on April 18.

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“Ethylene oxide is a pesticide that is not authorised for use in food. It can be used to fumigate agricultural products to prevent microbial contamination. Under Singapore’s Food Regulations, ethylene oxide is allowed to be used in the sterilisation of spices," it said.

Does ethylene oxide cause cancer?

At the same time, it has been mentioned that eating food with small amounts of ethylene oxide isn't immediately harmful, but it can cause health problems over time. So, people should avoid this substance as much as they can.

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“Consumers who have purchased the implicated products are advised not to consume it. Those who have consumed the implicated products and have concerns about their health should seek medical advice," the Singapore SFA added in its media release.

As per the US National Cancer Institute, lymphoma and leukaemia are the types of cancer most often linked to working with ethylene oxide. Stomach and breast cancers might also be related to exposure to this chemical. Ethylene oxide can damage DNA, which helps it sterilise things but also makes it capable of causing cancer, it says.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak, spinning the digital news scene since 2012, crafts trendy articles for LiveMint.
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Published: 22 Apr 2024, 03:15 PM IST
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