What is Ethylene Oxide at the Center of Lucky Me! Recall?

Here's what you need to know.
Photo/s: Jay Directo, Agence France-Presse

France and Ireland have recalled batches of Lucky Me! noodles while Malta has warned the public against consuming the Filipino favorite after finding higher-than-allowed levels of ethylene oxide.

What is ethylene oxide?

On its own, ethylene oxide is a flammable gas with a sweet smell, according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control. Used in many industries, ethylene oxide is used to make ethylene glycol, which is used to to make anti-freeze and polyester.

The U.S. FDA allows the use of ethylene oxide, in limited amounts, as a food additive in flavoring concentrates and oils.

The Philippines' FDA said ethylene oxide is used to disinfect herbs and spices and the use of such for food sterilization is prohibited in the EU.

Does Lucky Me! contain ethylene oxide?

Regulators in the three EU states noted higher than the allowed amounts of ethylene oxide in imported batches of Lucky Me! Pancit Canton Original, Hot Chili, Kalamansi, Chilimansi and Lucky Me! Beef Mami.

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Lucky Me! said it was "aware" of the recall. It also said that ethylene oxide is "not added" in its products.

The chemical is "commonly used as treatment" to control the growth of microbes in agricultural products, Lucky Me! said, adding, "These materials, when processed into seasoning and sauces, may still show traces of ethylene oxide."

Is ethylene oxide harmful?

Ethylene oxide damages DNA, which makes it an effective sterilizing agent, according to the U.S. Cancer Institute. This same property makes it "cancer-causing", it said.

Lymphoma and leukemia are cancers associated with people whose work exposes them to ethylene oxide. There have also been cases of stomach and breast cancer.

What's next for Lucky Me! Noodles?

The Philippines' FDA said Thursday it was investigating the recall and that it was checking the compliance of local manufacturer Monde Nissin Philippines with local law.

"For public information, The FDA is currently investigating this matter and coordinating with the aforementioned food business operator to check its compliance. We shall provide updates on the result of investigation for public information," the FDA said.

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