Should you be worried about the table salt you have been using?

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You might have come across a shocking news which questioned one’s eating choice but then, was it really shocking? Is the salt you had always been eating contains something poisonous?
Last month a news was published by few News houses claiming that Your Table Salt Contains Deadly Cyanide: US lab report“ which lead to confusion and worry.

Salt is a basic ingredient of almost everything we eat, so this news did make us worry but should we really? This led to many people writing their views, fear etc. on various social media platforms.

Last month, June 2019, Shiv Shankar Gupta, Chairman of Godhum Grains & Farms Products, in a press conference claimed that a test by American West Analytical Laboratories has revealed that potassium ferrocyanide levels are an alarmingly high in branded table salts. This lead to many mainstream media houses publishing it which lead to a social chaos

So let’s learn why should we stop worrying.

OK, so before we get in to the details, let’s try to kick out your worry.

The substance in question here is ‘Pottasium Ferrocyanide’ and notthe deadly Cyanide’ which was used in News title by many which is quite misleading.

Pottasium Ferrocyanide is used as an anti-caking agent in Salt as it prevents the forming of lumps. It’s used also in Condiments and Grape Wine as per the permissible volume.

“Anticaking agents are food additives that keep powders or granulated materials such as milk powder, powdered sugar, tea and coffee powders used in vending machines, table salt etc. flowing freely. Anti caking agents, in fact, prevent the formation of lumps making these products manageable for packaging, transport, and for use by end consumer.” – Source: foodadditivesworld.com

FSSAI (Food Safety & Standards Authority of India – the apex food regulator of India under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.) a Government body, logo of which you may have seen almost on all branded packaged products, clarified –

“Ferrocyanides are used as anti-caking agents in processing of salt & are safe for consumption. Test reports quoted in media have shown its presence well within limit of 10 mg/kg, as specified by FSSAI. This is less than 14 mg/kg specified by Codex (International Food Standards).”

IMA (Indian Medical Association) has also clarified on the same and reiterated FSSAI’s statement
“FSSAI has officially proclaimed that Ferrocyanates less than 10 mg /kg is safe for consumption of salt. Salt is essential for health. IMA reiterates the statement of FSSAI.”

Same rumour in Hongkong was clarified last year

A similar rumour spread in HongKong last year which was clarified by Centre for Food Safety, HongKong

“Food Safety Focus (147th Issue, October 2018) – Food Incident Highlight

Potassium Ferrocyanide Used as an Anticaking Agent in Salt

Recently, there have been rumours circulating on the social media in mainland China claiming that potassium ferrocyanide in salt is hazardous to health.  In fact, potassium ferrocyanide (INS no. 536) as well as sodium and calcium ferrocyanides (535 and 538) can be used as anticaking agents (substances that prevent powdered and granulated ingredients from lumping) in salt under Codex General Standard for Food Additives.  Potassium, sodium and/or calcium ferrocyanides are permitted anticaking agents in many countries such as mainland China, the United States, Canada, European Union member countries, Australia and New Zealand, etc.

Some people may worry that toxic cyanide will be released when ferrocyanides are heated during cooking.  However, because of the strong chemical bond between iron and the cyanide, usual cooking temperature is unable to break down ferrocyanide to cyanide.  International food safety authorities have evaluated the safety of sodium/potassium/calcium ferrocyanides and concluded that there is no safety concern in current authorised use and use levels.”

Sourcecfs.gov.hk

Kyle F. Gross, Director of the Lab, American West Analytical Laboratories, also gave out a statement on 1st July 2019

“Any comments by a news article whether positive or negative concerning a product did not originate at this laboratory. We condemn any party insinuating that this laboratory ever provides any other information than non-subjective analytical data.

News articles were changed/updated after publishing.

Many mainstream media edited their articles based on the facts which followed. They had to change/edit their online articles, even heading, or even delete the article. Many News houses in India updated their article including FSSAI’s clarification and Tata Salt’s reply.

Gulf News (A daily English language newspaper published from Dubai)

EiC of Gulf News Dubai UAE tweeted the article on 26th June 2019, which then had the heading “Indian table salt contains deadly cyanide: US lab results. Nowhere the Pottasium Ferrocyanide – a deadly poison – permitted for use in edible salt”

 

Clicking on the link leads you to the article which, although was posted on 26th June, but was updated along with the title on 1st July

Tata Salt also replied to the above tweet

 

Khaleej Times (A Dubai based, Daily English Newspaper) tweeted their news article on 25th June 2019 –

But clicking on the link to the article given in the tweets lead you to “No Page Found”

 

Further analysis

On FSSAI website, it’s written that sale of common salt is restricted, so it has to be ionized.

2.3.12: Restriction on sale of common salt No person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale, the common salt, for direct human consumption unless the same is iodized: Provided that common salt may be sold or exposed for sale or stored for sale for iodization, iron fortification, animal use, preservation, manufacturing medicines, and industrial use, under proper label declarations, as specified in the Regulation 2.4.5 (21 & 42) of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) regulations, 2011.


FSSAI has mentioned the level of additives on their website. For Pottasium ferrocyanide, they have approved 10 mg per kg and Tata Salt states “Depending on processing conditions, PFC is used in Tata Salt at levels below the permissible 10 mg per kg. The content varies between 3 and 5 mg per kg”

 

Codex Alimenttarius, International Food Standards Named Pottasium ferrocyanide as INS 536 which proves it comes very much under food standards, worldwide.


 

It’s also mentioned as a food additive on WHO official website

Tata Salt in an official statement put forth its views. 

“The recent allegations made against the purity and health benefits of Tata Salt are totally false and misleading and being made by vested interests.  India is one among many countries including the United States of America, European Union, Australia and New Zealand that have allowed the use of PFC in salt. The level allowed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), an independent statutory authority, under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India is the lowest among these jurisdictions (10 mg per kg). Codex Alimentarius, the most authoritative guidelines on food safety has declared  PFC  safe for consumption at levels of 14 mg per kg. The use of PFC is allowed in salt and is safe and harmless to the human body when consumed as per approved levels. This is clearly declared in the list of Tata Salt ingredients in a manner prescribed by the regulations. 

Iodine is another essential micronutrient that is required in a small quantity by the body, every single day. As part of the Government of India’s efforts to address the issue of micronutrient deficiency in the country and tackle Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD), Tata Salt has partnered with the government in this initiative from the year 1983, and played a pivotal role in the battle against iodine deficiency. According to FSSAI, adequate salt iodization in India has saved 4 billion IQ points in the last 25 years. 

As one of India’s most trusted brand, Tata Salt prides itself on being a reputed and responsible brand and follows a rigorous quality control processes to ensure that a safe, healthy and high-quality product is delivered to consumers. This not only includes quality control at the manufacturing location, but also strict quality control in distribution and product quality.”

They also clearly mention E536 on the packet and is also approved by FSSAI –

Verdict

PFC i.e Pottasium Ferrocyanide is allowed as a food additive in Salt and is considered harmless to human body if consumed in approved levels.

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