UK food safety authorities have issued a warning to food processors over the use of food grade chemicals from a Northern Ireland-based distributor following the death of a woman in Italy.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a precautionary warning to companies and individuals who have bought food grade chemicals for food production from Antrim-based Mistral Laboratory Chemicals.
Products supplied by Mistral have been implicated in an on-going Italian investigation into the death of a 29-year old woman who ingested Sorbitol purchased from the company during a doctor’s test for food intolerance.
Two other people in the country have also been hospitalised after consuming the product, which is commonly used as a sweetener in sugar-free sweets and chewing gum.
The company, which sells products through its website and through other sites including eBay, has voluntarily ceased distribution of its food grade products, the FSA added.
FSA spokesman Brad Smythe told FoodProductionDaily.com that the actions follow an alert from the Italian authorities and are purely precautionary while the investigation continues.
“In addition to the precautionary action we are working closely with the Italian investigators,” Smythe added.
Mistral, which distributes within the UK and internationally, were pinpointed as a potential source of the concern “following information received from the Italian authorities.”
“Italian authorities are investigating the circumstances of the recent death of a woman at a private medical clinic in Italy. Products for food use supplied by Mistral have been implicated in that investigation,” said the FSA warning.
“However, enquiries are still on-going. There have been no reported food related incidents in the UK linked to products supplied by Mistral, and the FSA is issuing a warning as a precaution.”
According to the Italian Health Ministry, the batch of Sorbitol had been repackaged by Mistral and sold to the clinic doctor through the internet.
An Italian Health Ministry statement said: “The substance has been impounded pending trial and is awaiting the performance of laboratory testing.”
Mistral Laboratory Chemicals supply chemicals for food and non-food purposes. The company’s website is currently unavailable.
Online auction website eBay has since blocked the global sale of Sorbitol on its site.
“Sorbitol is a very common surrogate for sugar and it is a substance that can be legally sold both through the traditional channels and online. However, as a precautionary measure, eBay immediately cancelled all sales of sorbitol until further clarifications,” said a statement from the online auctioneer.