PENANG: The Health Ministry will meet food manufacturers throughout the country soon to ensure that proper measures are taken to minimise the presence of semicarbazide (SEM) in bottled food items, including baby food.
Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said yesterday that the measures included timely alternative packaging solutions, with immediate priority given to baby food.
He said experts from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) had recommended the measures.
He also said the ministry would closely monitor the updates issued by the Food Safety Authorities of Britain and Ireland on the risk to consumers resulting from possible presence of SEM in the food.
In July, the Efsa was advised of the presence of SEM, a chemical by-product of plastic seals used on the inside of metal twist-on-twist-off lids of glass food jars.
So far, Efsa's experts have advised no change to current dietary habits and consumers may continue to use all food concerned, including baby food, Chua said after opening the Penang Adventist Hospital's clinical pathology laboratory services and launching the Architect ci 8200 Analyser.
Chua was asked to comment on the call by Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations president Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan in a Malay daily yesterday for the ministry to order the recall of bottled food items, including baby food, which contained SEM as it could cause cancer in consumers.
Hamdan said the ministry should order a temporary stop on the sale of the food items pending the outcome of a study conducted on the food.
Chua said there was no need for the ministry to recall the food products as the Efsa's scientific panel concluded that the risks associated with eating food containing SEM were very small.
He urged parents and other consumers not to be unduly alarmed as his ministry would advise the public from time to time on the matter.
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