Oct 25th, 2021
7 mins

The BFFF have received an update from the Food standards Agency (FSA) regarding Ethylene Oxide (EtO) residue detected in Xanthan Gum:


The FSA recently wrote to Local Authorities (LAs) relating to Ethylene Oxide (EtO) residues detected in xanthan gum and actions that LAs should take.


This communication was made as the FSA continues to receive incident notifications of food additives (locust bean gum, guar gum and most recently, xanthan gum) contaminated with EtO. There have been a larger number of product withdrawals and recalls undertaken across the EU compared to the UK; the UK is monitoring the situation and the scale of implicated products on the UK market.


The FSA would like to take this opportunity to remind industry that EtO in xanthan gum is not compliant and non-complaint products should not be placed on the market. Where they have been placed on the market, a product withdrawal should be undertaken unless a specific risk assessment has been carried out, which permits the products to be placed on the market. Where a specific risk assessment has been undertaken by the food business operator (FBO) showing levels detected to be less than 0.1mg/kg, product can remain on the market in the short term. Businesses must continue to identify the root cause to establish how the EtO contamination has occurred for these products and to fully implement mitigation measures to ensure no future batches are found to be contaminated. Xanthan gum identified as being above 0.1 mg/kg should not be placed on the market or used in further production.


The FSA is not currently aware of any cases of EtO contamination in infant formulae but if such instances come to light we ask that the FSA is informed to enable a specific risk assessment to be undertaken.


The FSA requests industry to provide updates on root case analysis findings and when compliant xanthan gum and stabilisers become available, as well as provide details of the mitigation measures being implemented to ensure that xanthan gum is compliant going forward. Other EU countries may adopt other approaches. The FSA’s risk assessment and risk management advice is based on our own assessment of the risk and applies to UK businesses only.


Risk assessment summary:

Based on risk assessments that have been carried out; (a) the concentration of EtO in the gum and inclusion rate in the product or (b) the concentration of EtO in the final product were known, it is unlikely that there would be a concern for health, although due to the nature of genotoxic carcinogens it is not possible to say there is zero risk to health.


In the case of xanthan gum, there are no applicable MRL’s outlined in retained EU law 396/2005, unlike previous incidents involving locust bean gum and guar gum, and any action taken would be under food safety legislation. Please contact the food incidents team at if you have any questions.

In summary, the pesticide EtO, has been detected in the food additive xanthan gum in the UK and the EU. EtO can be harmful and is not approved for use in food. The FSA has informed LAs that, based on risk assessment, xanthan gum with levels of EtO less than 0.1mg/kg can remain on the UK market. A product withdrawal is required for any non-compliant product with levels above 0.1 mg/kg. LAs have been asked to inform FSA if xanthan gum is contaminated with EtO above 0.1mg/kg and/or where EtO has been detected in infant formulae.

Please forward this email onto any industry contacts you feel relevant and contact us at should you have any queries.


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