Food and drink from Taiwan contaminated with a potentially toxic chemical may have been imported into Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) warned Sunday.
A consumer advisory said the agency is "actively working" with international partners to determine whether items containing DEHP (Di-Ethyl Hexyl Phthalate), one of a family of chemicals known to cause reproductive problems and linked to cancer in some studies, have landed on Canadian shelves.
Taiwan and its neighbours have been struggling with a spreading food- safety scare over phthalates - which are commonly used as plasticizers to make vinyl plastic soft and flexible - discovered recently in a wide variety of foods and drinks from which they are prohibited.
On Saturday, the CFIA issued an "individual recall" on six fruit juices and jams under the brand names Possmei and Trojan, which had been distributed by the Kuo Hua Trading Company Ltd. to retail outlets, hotels and restaurants in British Columbia. But that recall's classification suggests the products are unlikely to cause health problems.
Indeed, the CFIA considers the immediate health risk to Canadians "to be low," because phthalates like DEHP tend to cause health problems only after "prolonged exposure."
"Based on the information available to date, the levels of DEHP used fraudulently in the foods that have been implicated in the current food recalls in Taiwan are unlikely to lead to any acute toxic effects," the statement said.
In January, Canada's federal government announced new rules restricting the use of six phthalates in toys and child-care articles. Phthalates can leach out of items if they are sucked or licked for a prolonged time, or on a daily basis.
Recent recalls in Taiwan also included teas, sports drinks and food powders, and reports say the country has pulled hundreds of thousands of bottles of beverages and tens of thousands of kilograms of food from store shelves.
Any contaminated products the CFIA investigation discovers will be "subject to recall" and posted to the CFIA website at inspection.gc.ca.