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Brussels, 19 March 2002

Food Safety Member States support emergency suspension of the sale of jelly mini-cups containing "konjac" (E425) food additive

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today voted in favour of a Commission proposal to take emergency measures to suspend the marketing in the EU of jelly mini-cups containing the food additive konjac (E 425). The suspension will be formally adopted by the European Commission in the next few days and will apply immediately. The European Commission has proposed the suspension to protect consumer health, in particular children, in response to the death of several children in the United States and in Canada due to choking on the contents of jelly mini-cups containing "konjac". The jelly mini-cups containing this substance are considered to constitute a risk because of their shape and form, as well as the chemical and physical properties of konjac. An EU-wide measure is deemed necessary to ensure the same high level of consumer protection in all EU countries.

"Protecting children's health is an absolute priority for me", Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne commented today. "I am therefore pleased to see that Member States support our proposal. This is a good example of how the new EU food law can work in practice, by taking targeted and decisive action to protect all EU citizens, and in particular their children."

Jelly mini-cups are marketed in the EU by different manufacturers as a single portion, pre-packaged sweet or confectionery, mainly intended for children. Some manufacturers already include a warning on the product highlighting the risk for children and the elderly. Member States agreed today with a proposal for a Commission Decision that suspends the marketing of the product because such warnings are insufficient to protect children. It also suspends the use of this additive in similar products. This implies that manufacturers and importers will have to recall all jelly mini-cups and other jelly confectionery containing konjac from shop shelves.

The emergency measure is taken using the new powers conferred on the European Commission by Regulation (EC) Nr. 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, which entered into force last February. Article 53 of this Regulation authorises the Commission to suspend the marketing of a food that is likely to constitute a serious risk to human health when such a risk cannot be contained satisfactorily by national measures. Given the disparity of the measures taken by some Member States and the fact that others have not taken any measures at all, the Commission found EU-wide measures necessary to provide adequate health protection to all EU citizens.

Konjac is used as a gelling agent and thickener in food products. It is also called konjac gum, konjac glucomannan, conjac, konnyaku, yam flour or glucomannan. Jelly mini-cups are individual, mouth-sized servings, containing a small piece of preserved fruit, including apple, mango, lychee and assorted fruit. The plastic cup is approximately the size of a single-service coffee creamer. These are sold in various package sizes (e.g. bags, plastic jars) or individually. Some packets may be labelled with precautionary advice.

The Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health is the new regulatory committee as set up under Regulation (EC) Nr. 178/2002.

See also IP/02/289 of 21 February 2002.

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