Chilean apples at the center of UK morpholine alarm

Chilean apples at the center of UK morpholine alarm

The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned food service operators not to sell imported apples treated with morpholine, a processing additive, after the substance was detected on Chilean apples, according to an agency statement.

The topic came up during an agency meeting on October 6. According to the FSA, the use of morpholine is banned in the European Union. The substance was found on apples and citrus in the UK and could have made it to other member countries, the release said. The measure has industry advocates calling foul.

Morpholine is a common additive in the waxing of fresh produce and is used freely in the United States, South Africa, Canada and Chile.

The government agency has asked food service providers to remove apples treated with the substance, but has not taken action with citrus, because the peel is removed before eating. The risk to consumers is considered low.

“Undue Concerns”

The UK’s fresh produce trade association, the Fresh Produce Consortium, (FPC)  blasted the measure, accusing the FSA of raising undue concerns among consumers.

“The FSA’s response to this incident is utterly disproportionate, particularly in the light of the fact that the FSA states that ‘exposure to morpholine from the levels detected in apples is likely to be of low risk to consumer health’ based on its initial risk assessment,” the produce group said in a news release.

The FPC also presented findings of a Canadian study that found the use of morpholine in apples does not present a risk to consumers'  health. The association questioned the FSA labeling of morpholine as a food additive instead of a processing aid. The alert could have global implications, the FPC added.

Moreover, the association questioned whether the FSA had acted in the best interest of consumers, because the agency has been aware of the situation for some time.

“The FSA’s inference that it has acted diligently and promptly to protect consumer interests is ridiculous given that they were tipped off with regard to a potential issue back in May,” the FPC statement read.


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