Lucky Me!, one of the Philippine’s favorite instant noodle brands came under fire when several EU countries detected traces of Ethylene Oxide. France, Ireland, Malta, and even Taiwan issued a warning and ordered a recall of Lucky Me! products, including Pancit Canton.
The issue left the masses questioning if Lucky Me! Products, including Pancit Canton, are still safe to eat. To understand the situation better, let us see what ethylene oxide is, what health risks it brings, and if instant noodles like Pancit Canton are still safe to eat.
What is Ethylene Oxide?
According to the National Cancer Institute, Ethylene Oxide (C₂H₄O) is a flammable, colorless gas that gives off a sweet scent. This gas is commonly used as an ingredient when creating antifreeze, detergents, polyesters, solvents, and industrial chemicals like ethylene glycol. Small amounts of ethylene oxide is used for sterilization and farmers use it as a pesticide to control insects in grain bins.
Ethylene oxide is flammable, reactive, and explosive; this endangers workers and people living near industrial plants that use the chemical. Other people can also expose themselves to this chemical when they use tobacco, medical products, cosmetics, or beekeeping equipment.
Is Ethylene Oxide Dangerous to your Health?
The short answer is yes, let me explain. Exposure to ethylene oxide may cause:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Eye burns
- Skin burns
- Reproductive Problems
People can get worse problems from ethylene oxide. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends ethylene oxide to be regarded as a carcinogen, a substance that could cause cancer. Occupational exposure to ethylene oxide can put a person at risk of developing lymphoma, leukemia, stomach, and breast cancer.
If you are pregnant, it is best to avoid exposure to ethylene oxide. In a research published by D. F. Gresie-Brusin et al., the researchers found out that exposure to ethylene oxide can increase the risk of spontaneous abortions and pregnancy loss.
What is it doing inside my favorite instant noodles?
Lucky Me! is a brand of instant noodles that usually comprises pre-cooked noodles with packets of seasonings for flavor. Its noodles are usually made of wheat flour, vegetable oil, salt, stabilizer, acidity regulator, and an emulsifier. On the other hand, its seasonings are made of coconut oil, malto dextrin, soy sauce, potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, cane sugar, salt, MSG, dehydrated vegetables, onion, garlic, and caramel color.
As you can see above, ethylene oxide is missing in both of the ingredient lists for the noodles and seasoning. But how did France, Malta, and Ireland detect ethylene oxide in the instant noodles?
In a statement released last July 7, 2022, Lucky Me! clarified that ethylene oxide is not added in their products. They do however use it as a treatment for spices and seeds to control the growth of microbes. “These materials, when processed into seasoning and sauces, may still show traces of Ethylene Oxide.”, they added.
Should I still eat Lucky Me! Instant Noodle Products?
In the same statement, Lucky Me! reassures the public that their products are compliant to Philippine and US FDA standards for Ethylene Oxide. Despite complying with FDA standards, the local consumer group called Makabayan Consumer Watch asked the FDA to issue a transparent and objective report regarding ethylene oxide use.
What are the health risks of eating Lucky Me! Instant Noodles?
Although tasty, convenient, and relatively safe, instant noodles are unhealthy. A single pack of Lucky Me! Pancit Canton has 320 mg of sodium. Having a high sodium diet can increase the risk of:
- Stomach cancer
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Kidney stones
- High blood pressure
Aside from having a lot of sodium, it is also low in protein and fiber which could lead to:
- Won’t satisfy your hunger
- Diverticular disease
- Reduction of healthy gut bacteria
Let me give you an example of a person who suffered because of eating instant noodles daily. In 2018, an 18-year-old exemplary Taiwanese university student died because of stomach cancer. According to an article from the New Straits Time, the student had been an inspiration to others by being an outstanding student while working during the evening.
Unfortunately, the student developed a nasty habit of eating instant noodles every day for years. After some time, the student felt nausea, bloating, stomachaches, and was chronically unwell.
His family noticed his symptoms worsened and took him to the hospital. They received the worst news possible; the student was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. After a year of struggle, the student passed away together with his bright future.
Dr Yan Jiaru, an oncologist in the hospital that treated the student, urged the Taiwanese public to reduce their consumption of instant noodles.
Grim, isn’t it?
To avoid this problem, you can follow the advice of doctors like Dr. Jiaru to reduce the consumption of instant noodles. Another thing you can do is to find alternatives to them.
What can you do?
Instead of instant noodles, you can eat the following to satisfy your hunger in a tasty and healthy way:
- Home cooked pancit
- Camote/Sweet Potato
- Mixed nuts
- Dark chocolate
- Rice + any home cooked viand for lunch and dinner
In moderation, it could be okay to eat Lucky Me! instant noodles. But eating it daily can lead to serious medical consequences.