The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed three new methods to detect an illegal clouding agent found in sports drinks imported from Taiwan, the EU said in a press statement.
“The methods are freely available on the JRC Web site and are intended to facilitate the work of laboratories in the EU and worldwide involved in the testing of suspected products,” it said.
Testing laboratories are invited to submit feedback regarding the performance of the methods to the JRC, which will analyze the findings and improve the methods if necessary, the statement said.
Following a request from the European Commission’s -Directorate-General for Health and Consumers, the JRC developed and validated three new testing methods that mean the substances can be quickly and accurately detected.
The move came after Taiwan informed the EU in late May that significant amounts of phthalates had been illegally added to certain sports drinks.
Normally, producers of sports drinks, jelly and fruit syrups use a palm-oil based product to obtain an opaque appearance, but in the case of the Taiwanese incident, this was largely replaced by two cheaper substances: di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (commonly known as DEHP), and — in one case — di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DINP).
DEHP and DINP are commonly used in plastic products. However, these substances are prohibited from being used in food production and their use in plastic toys and childcare products is restricted in the EU.
The chemicals are believed to affect reproductive performance and fertility, and have been linked to developmental problems with children, the EU said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published the names of 879 products from more than 300 producers that contained high amounts of phthalates.
More than 200 products from 34 producers were exported to 22 countries. These include some EU member states, in particular Germany and the UK, where some products were withdrawn from the market, it said.
Since the chemical scandal broke out in Taiwan, the government has prohibited local food suppliers from retailing or exporting products without displaying certificates to prove that their products do not contain the plasticizers, although this requirement was lifted on Aug. 1.
Late last month, the FDA said it had not found any food, beverages or drugs that had been maliciously contaminated with any type of plasticizer after completing inspections on 1,291 products after more than two months of intensive efforts to deal with the problem.
“That indicated that there isn’t any systematic contamination from DEHP and other toxic plasticizers,” the FDA said.