Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Ethylene oxide in food

The primary use of ethylene oxide is as an intermediate ingredient in the further manufacture of industrial products (e.g., polyester). Ethylene oxide also has applications as a sterilizing agent in healthcare and as a fumigant pesticide in agriculture. ​

Ethylene oxide is used in the production of several authorized food additives and may be present as an impurity in low amounts in the final product. It is a processing aid used to disinfect herbs and spices

Vanilla (flavoring) and locust gum (thickener and stabilizer) are agricultural products which may be used in very small quantities (<1%) in the production of ice cream. Traces of ethylene oxide in fumigated locust gum and vanilla pods may carry into the finished ice cream products.

However, the use of ethylene oxide on foods is being phased out worldwide, due to health concerns associated with residues that may remain in foods until they are consumed.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless, highly flammable, very reactive gas with a sweet odor that kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is converted in the environment and in crops to 2-chloroethanol, among other things. The acute (short-term) effects of ethylene oxide in humans consist mainly of central nervous system depression and irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes. Chronic (long-term) exposure to ethylene oxide in humans can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and damage to the brain and nervous system.

Ethylene oxide has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties and can therefore be genotoxic or carcinogenic.
Ethylene oxide in food

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