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Soy sauce contaminant is widespread in UK foods

20th July 2001

The cancer-causing chemical found in soy sauce, 3-MCPD, is also found in a wide range of UK-made foods, according to a survey the government published quietly last February.

The finding of high levels of 3-MCPD in several brands of soy sauce hit national headlines in June. But figures from the earlier survey show that over twice as much 3-MCPD is getting into our food supply from UK-made food, including products like Mother's Pride bread, Sainsbury's beefburgers and McVitie's crackers, according to details published in today's Food Magazine.

The European Commission has set legal limits to the amount of 3-MCPD allowed in soy sauce but has failed to set limits for most other foods, instead calling on companies to voluntarily keep the levels to the 'minimum detectable'. Even this is expected to be relaxed to the 'minimum technically achievable'.

'We estimate that soy sauce is responsible for about 20 billion micrograms of 3-MCPD in our diets, while bread, crackers and burgers alone are responsible for nearly 50 billion,' said Dr Tim Lobstein, director of the consumer watchdog The Food Commission. 'There's no justification picking on soy sauce companies and making one law for them and another for us. We believe UK products should be regulated as strongly as imported products, so that consumers are protected from bad manufacturing practices wherever the food comes from.'

The alarm over soy sauce comes at a time when China is greatly increasing its food exports to Europe, potentially undercutting local food companies. It also comes when an EU inspection team is preparing a report on Chinese food manufacturing practices.