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Taiwan FDA finds carcinogen in US-imported spices for TGI Fridays

'Blackening Spice' containing ethylene oxide seized at border

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A TGI Fridays restaurant in Taipei. (Facebook, TGI Fridays photo)

A TGI Fridays restaurant in Taipei. (Facebook, TGI Fridays photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan authorities have seized around 450 kilograms of U.S.-imported spice powder destined for TGI Fridays restaurants after it was found to contain the carcinogen ethylene oxide.

CNA reported on Tuesday (Nov. 28) that the spices were seized at the border by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The 453 kg batch of “GMO-Free Blackening Spice” contained excess levels of the carcinogen that is used to make chemicals such as antifreeze, and is also found in some pesticides.

According to Taiwan’s health ministry, the chemical is toxic and can cause severe skin and eye irritation, cancer, genetic defects, and infertility. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, lymphoma and leukemia are the cancers most commonly reported to be associated with exposure to ethylene oxide, while stomach and breast cancers may also be associated.

The discovery of the carcinogen in the spices comes after batches of U.S.-imported cheese and garlic powders were pulled from supermarket shelves in August and July.

FDA Deputy Director Lin Chin-fu (林金富) said that from January to November, five batches of sauces imported from the U.S. also failed to meet food health standards. Foods imported from the U.S. will not be subject to increased scrutiny at the border, but companies that have failed inspections will, Lin said.

The U.S. government is expected to be asked to explain how it plans to improve standards. In addition to the U.S. products, Chinese and Peruvian products were also stopped at the border by the FDA.

Taiwan FDA finds carcinogen in US-imported spices for TGI Fridays
A sample of the spices seized. (CNA, Taiwan FDA photo)