The Ministry of Agriculture said there was no immediate threat to health but ordered manufacturers to reduce levels of the chemical in the jars. In tests, almost half of 137 samples of glass-bottled baby food were found to contain the chemical, called epoxidised soya bean oil.
The chemical is used to form an airtight seal between the lid and jar and prevent microbiological contamination. It also ensures the rubber rim of the lid is more flexible so that any tampering is obvious. However, in large quantities it can be a danger to babies and adults.
A study by the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group found that 48 per cent of brand-name baby food samples contained up to 105mg of the oil per kilogram. The safe limit for the chemical, as recommended by the UK Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, is one milligram per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The limit is the amount of a substance that can be eaten every day over a lifetime without any increased risk to health.
For epoxidised soya bean oil, the limit for human consumption is one hundred times safer than the limit observed in animal studies. These have shown adverse effects on animals exposed to 1,000mg per kilogram of body weight per day but no effect at 100mg.
Heinz, the baby-food manufacturer, said that the research showed that its food does not contain the chemical, although its jars do.Reuse content