Popular instant noodle brand Lucky Me! Pancit Canton is being recalled due to high levels of Ethylene Oxide. But is that really the case? Here’s what we know.

When we’re talking about popular Filipino instant noodles, Lucky Me! Pancit Canton automatically comes to mind. One of the many brands under the Monde Nissin belt, this classic was launched in 1989 and has grown into a household staple—one enjoyed by almost every Filipino family.

With flavors ranging from the much-coveted Kalamansi to other iterations like the Original, Chilimansi, Sweet & Spicy, and Extra Hot Chili, these instant noodles come in many forms. In fact, Lucky Me! even offers comforting soup-based ones like Chicken and Beef, which they call Instant Mami.

However, Lucky Me! Pancit Canton is now in hot water, as it faces product recall from countries like Ireland, France, and Malta. Taking to their respective official accounts, they ordered to recall selected Lucky Me! instant noodle variants, which were being sold in their markets, since they were found to contain “high levels of Ethylene Oxide”. These include the Original, Beef Noodles, Kalamansi, Hot Chili, and Chilimansi flavors.

This caught the public’s attention, with many netizens calling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for proof and for Monde Nissin to verify the news—accompanied by many sad reactions and memes. Here’s what we know about the controversy so far.

What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene Oxide is a hazardous chemical commonly found in pesticides and disinfectants. A flammable gas with a somewhat sweet odor, Ethylene Oxide is “used for fumigation of low water activity foods [or simply dry food], such as nuts, spices, dry fruits, milk powders, and cereals, [in order] to protect them from microorganisms and insects.” While the substance was used to reduce or eliminate microbiological contamination with Salmonella, using it to disinfect food is not permitted in Europe after the substance was detected in a food additive used in a range of products.

But what are the effects of Ethylene Oxide once you consume it? Nothing major, as long as you’re not exposed to high levels of the chemical. “While consumption of foods containing ethylene oxide doesn’t pose an acute risk to health, there is an increased risk if contaminated foods are consumed over a long period of time—with officials not certain when contamination started,” Food Safety News explains. The Irish government echoes the same sentiments.

Other European countries, however, beg to differ. According to the French National Agency for Health Safety of Food, Environment, and Work (Anses), “Even very low levels of exposure are associated with an excess risk of cancer” given that it is a carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic substance.

Said European countries and manufacturers try to minimize the health risks altogether. “There is no safe level of exposure for consumers in products that contain the additive known to be contaminated with Ethylene Oxide, and any level people may be faced with presents a potential risk,” experts explain.

Simply put, food or feed businesses that put such products in the European market need to withdraw and recall them—a zero-tolerance for even traces of the substance, so to speak.

Unlucky Me?

With all the backlash and controversy surrounding its brand, Monde Nissin—through its official Lucky Me! Facebook page—issued a statement. “We would like to clarify that Ethylene Oxide is not added in Lucky Me! products,” the post reads. “It is a commonly used treatment in spices and seeds to control microbial growth, typically in agricultural products. These materials, when processed into seasoning and sauces, may still show traces of Ethylene Oxide.”

“Rest assured that all Lucky Me! products are Philippine FDA-registered and comply with local food safety standards and even the US FDA standards for Ethylene Oxide,” it adds.

Monde Nissin stresses that the product recall affects other companies’ noodle brands, too—even going so far as to include food from different categories like ice cream, sesame seeds, spices, calcium carbonate supplements, and the like. Moreover, reports indicate that the recalled Pancit Canton products were manufactured in Thailand.

As of writing, the local FDA is looking into the matter. “Wala pa tayo pinapa-hold as we are still verifying the report and getting details. The incident was from Europe, our FDA now is verifying the report so we can issue further information to the public,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. told reporters.

[Rough Translation: We have yet to put anything on hold, as we are still verifying the report and getting details.]

Vergeire reiterates that only certain batches and lot numbers of the product containing the component or chemical can be removed from the market under FDA guidelines. “Aantayin po natin ang resulta ng FDA. Whatever would be affected, specifically batches and lot number for this specific product, ‘yun po ang tinatanggal sa merkado,” she adds.

[Rough Translation: We will wait for the results from the FDA. We will be removing whatever would be affected—specifically batches and lot numbers for a certain product.]

Photos from Monde Nissin

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