EU validates test methods for sports drinks contaminated with plasticiser

By Michelle Knott

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sports drinks European union

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published three methods to detect an illegal clouding agent that was found earlier this year in sports drinks imported from Taiwan.

Producers of sports drinks, jelly and fruit pulps commonly use a palm-oil based product to obtain a cloudy appearance, but in the Taiwanese incident, manufacturers had instead used bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and - in one case - di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DINP).

The new methods have been validated for a DEHP range of 3 mg/kg to 100 mg/kg in sports drinks.

All three analytical methods, or standard operating procedures (SOPs), are based on different combinations of chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques.

Worldwide concern

In late May, the Taiwanese authorities warned that significant amounts of phthalates had been illegally added to certain categories of sports drinks.

The contaminated products were exported on a significant scale to Canada, the US, Malaysia and China and the incident caused major commercial ructions in the markets around South East Asia.

However, a Commission spokesman told this publication that the Taiwanese scare had relatively little impact on European businesses and consumers:

The EU was only affected to a limited extent (export of some consignments of contaminated products to UK and Germany). The information was transmitted via the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed), the products were traced and withdrawn from the market.”

He added that the new methods would provide reliable tools for regulators and other interested parties in any future incidents.

DEHP and DINP are believed to affect reproductive performance and fertility and have been linked to developmental problems in children.

They are commonly used as plasticisers, but are prohibited for use in the production of food. They are also restricted in plastic toys and childcare products within the EU.

The latest incident blew up when the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration 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.

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