Germany yesterday announced a ban on a jelling agent, konjac, which has been used in billions of sweets for children.
\nKonjac, also known as konnyaku, yam flour or glucomannan, is the key material in a childhood sensation known as Mini Fruit Jellys or Mini Fruit Cups that had to be pulled from shelves all over the EU and the US in January.
\nServed in tiny plastic cups that imitate grown-ups' ready-to-eat meals, the Taiwanese-made sweet is sucked into the mouth to be chewed slowly. However small children were at risk of choking if they swallowed the gel too early.
\nGerman Health Minister Renate Kuenast said she had decided to extend the ban from the product to all use of konjac as an ingredient. Sources said EU officials had agreed to a request from Berlin for konjac to be banned soon throughout western Europe.
\nThe German ban is to take effect on Wednesday.
\nThe US Food and Drug Administration said earlier this year there had been reports of four US children's deaths from choking associated with this type of jelly candy. Food safety experts spoke of up to eight deaths in Japan.
\nIt is estimated that one Taiwanese company sold more than 3 billion pieces of the gel snacks.
\nIn August of last year the popular jelly candy imported from Taiwan was pulled from US shelves of hundreds of supermarkets after it was blamed for the choking deaths of two children.
\nAt that time two US grocery store chains -- Safeway and Albertson's -- announced that Jelly Yum brand candies and Fruit Poppers and Gelly Drop candies will be removed from its 2,500 stores nationwide, and bulk-goods store Costco ordered the candies off the shelves of more than 250 stores around the world, including 10 in Asia.
\nThe candy is linked to the deaths of a 3-year-old an a 12-year-old last year in the US. In both cases, rescue workers said they couldn't dislodge the sticky gel from the children's throats.
\nThe gel candies are individually packed in small, soft plastic cups and are sold in bulk in plastic jars.
\nThe brightly colored candies have become popular over the last two years among American children after the treats met with success in Asia.
\nHealth officials have warned the sweet gel does not readily dissolve in the mouth. Some jars carry a label warning that the candies are not safe for children under age 6, while others have said they are not safe for children under age 3.
\nAt least a dozen deaths have been tied to the candy around the world. Most have been in Asia, where the candy originated in 1995. In Japan, the candy has gotten the nickname "deadly mouthful."
\nThe Taichung County-based Sheng Hsiang Jen Foods Co (
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