The decision by Malaysia and Taiwan to recall Indomie’s “special chicken” flavour noodles has raised some concerns about the safety of the food globally, including in Nigeria.
The development followed the detection of ethylene oxide, a substance known to cause cancer, in the product by the health institutions in the two countries.
Nigeria has also reacted to the development as the agency in charge of standards has set in motion plans to conduct fresh independent tests on the concerned products.
The country’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday morning its plans to ascertain the claim by its Taiwan and Malaysian counterparts.
Malaysian, Taiwan findings
The health department in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, said it detected ethylene oxide in two types of instant noodles, including the Indomie chicken flavour, following random inspections.
It said the detection of ethylene oxide in the product did not comply with standards.
“The Taipei City Health Bureau reminds food industry that our country has not approved the use of ethylene oxide as a pesticide, nor has it approved the use of ethylene oxide gas as a disinfection purpose,” the department said in a statement.
“The industry is sure to implement autonomous management and confirm that the raw materials and products should comply with food safety and health management.”
Following this development, the health ministry in Malaysia said it had examined 36 samples of instant noodles from different brands since 2022 and found that 11 samples contained ethylene oxide.
Ethylene oxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is used to sterilize medical devices and spices and has been described as a cancer-causing chemical.
The Malaysian ministry said it had taken enforcement actions and recalled the affected products.
Indofoods, an Indonesian company and maker of Indomie instant noodles, has denied the allegations noting that all its noodles are produced with standard certification. However, Taiwan and Malaysia have ordered businesses to immediately remove the products from their shelves.
NAFDAC Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, a professor, on Sunday, told this newspaper that beginning from Tuesday, 2 May, the agency will commence processes to test randomly selected products to ascertain the claims before reaching out to the public.
Mrs Adeyeye in response to an inquiry by our reporter, said the agency’s official in charge of laboratory services is already on alert.
The director general wrote: “NAFDAC is responding. We plan to randomly sample Indomie noodles (including the seasoning) from the production facilities while PMS samples from the markets. This we will carry out on Tuesday 2nd May (as Monday May 1st is a public holiday).
“The compound of interest is ethylene oxide, so the Director (Lab Services) Food has (is) being engaged, and he is working on the methodology for the analysis.”
Safe for consumption
Reacting to the allegations in a statement on Friday, Taufik Wiraatmadja, a member of the board of directors at Indofoods, defended the safety of the noodles noting that it is safe for consumption.
Mr Wiraatmadja said the noodles have received standard certifications and have been produced in compliance with international food safety regulations.
“All instant noodles produced by ICBP in Indonesia are processed in compliance with the food safety standards from the Codex Standard for Instant Noodles and standards set by the Indonesian National Agency for Drug and Food Control (“BPOM RI”). Our instant noodles have received Indonesian National Standard Certification (SNI), and are produced in certified production facilities based on international standards,” he wrote.
“ICBP has exported instant noodles to various countries around the world for more than 30 years. The Company continuously ensures that all of its products are in compliance with the applicable food safety regulations and guidelines in Indonesia as well as other countries where ICBP’s instant noodles are marketed.
“We would like to emphasise that in accordance with the statement released by BPOM RI, our Indomie instant noodles are safe for consumption.”
Indofoods is one of the world’s largest makers of instant noodles and exports its products to more than 90 countries including Saudi Arabia and Nigeria where they are in high demand.
Implication for Nigeria
Nigeria, a major consumer of Indomie instant noodles, is expected to take a position on the matter in the coming days.
According to data from the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA), Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is currently among the largest consumers of instant noodles with 1.92 million servings as of May 2020.
The country also ranked 11th in the global demand for noodles ranking, with Indomie instant noodles being the most consumed brand in Nigeria.