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Europe Recalls Batches of Hảo Hảo Noodles Found to Contain Banned Substance

Vietnam's supply is said to be free of the pesticide that warranted the ban. 

Earlier this month, Ireland banned certain batches of Hảo Hảo Sour-Hot Shrimp Flavour and Good Spare Ribs Flavour instant noodles because they were found to contain ethylene oxide — a sterilant and pesticide that is illegal in the European Union (EU). In subsequent days, more EU nations have followed suit, including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. 

Ethylene oxide is not believed to have acute health effects but can contribute to long-term health problems and has thus been banned in all foods across the EU. 

The noodles are produced in Vietnam by Japan-invested Acecook Vietnam. Kajiwara Junichi, general director of the company, said that at no point in the production of the noodles is ethylene oxide used, while noting that the substance is commonly used to sterilize medical equipment and certain food products and it is not banned in the United States, Canada, or many other of the other 40 countries the company exports their products to.

The two noodle types that are banned in certain EU countries have expiration dates of September 24, 2022 and November 10, 2022, respectively.

Acecook Vietnam has stated that these two batches were not released in the Vietnamese market, where the substance is not banned. Junichi explains: "The two products exported to Europe are exclusive to that market and are not domestic products. All available products in Vietnam abide by Vietnamese regulations and are safe for consumers."

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is verifying the company's claims and has requested more detailed information from Acecook Vietnam about the production process, including how and why products vary across intended markets. The ministry is also reviewing all of the company's products available on Vietnamese shelves.

Meanwhile, Norway has since banned “dried noodles with chicken and beef spices” from Vietnamese food-maker Thien Huong Food Joint Stock Company because they found it too contained ethylene oxide. Vietnam's Ministry of of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the Ho Chi Minh City Food Safety Management Board to investigate the situation, stressing the importance of maintaining the industry's reputation for exports. 

Vietnam, home to approximately 50 instant noodle-producing companies, was the world's third-largest consumer of the good in 2020. Behind only China and Indonesia, Vietnam consumed 7.03 billion servings, a 29% increase over the previous year and the equivalent to 55.6 bowls per person. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly contributed to the rise in consumption of the nostalgia-inducing food.

[Photo via Nguoi Dua Tin]

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