DANGER: Sausages that have the coloring agent and preservative E250 in them can become poisonous if cooked on an open fire. Producers of the sausages say they have been aware for over five years of the potential side effects, but did not write the warning on the label.
VILNIUS - On the eve of barbeque season in the Baltics, preliminary research by the government food watchdog has revealed that sausages popular for cooking on an open fire become poisonous when exposed to smoke or high temperatures because of a preservative called E250.
Despite the bombshell, producers and supermarkets have continued to sell the products, which account for around 90 percent of the Lithuanian sausage range available.
Food quality control specialists said products that contain the preservatives become a health-threatening substance when cooked over a fire.
Zenonas Stanevicius, Deputy Director of the State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS), told The Baltic Times that a nitrite salt is produced when E250 reacts with smoke and high temperatures.
"These [sausages] should be prohibited for consumer health 's we have said that this document [regarding E250] should be revised because sometimes producers do not inform consumers that the salt is inside and they continue to produce the sausages," Stanevicius said.
"We already have a special order issued by the Ministry of Agriculture saying that some sausages, especially made to be smoked for the weekend barbeque, couldn't be advertised with pictures 's if you want to make some meal on the fire or with high heating, you can't because there are a lot of nitrite salts," he said.
The products have not been withdrawn from shelves yet because the SFVS needs to ensure that their tests are proven, which Stanevicius expects will be done soon.
"This week we decided to clarify the circumstances. We are making a decision on whether to call them back or whether to give information."
"We are still trying to decide which sausages are dangerous 's it is hard to say what the real situation is 's we need to see if we took the information from some sausages and aren't using that prematurely. This could be harmful for producers so we have to be certain," he said.
Meanwhile, supermarkets and producers are still selling the sausages to consumers without warning labels.
Gediminas Tilindas, Production Manager for Samsonas, one of the country's largest meat producers, told TBT that everything is within the law.
"It is a legal meat ingredient and is allowed in the EU in certain quantities. If the EU stops using this, then we will," he said.
"This additive can cause cancer if you expose it to an open fire... If you eat it cold or boil this, it is nothing bad."
Tilindas said the problem lies in the mislabeling of sausages, which his company is exempt from.
"We do not write that this is a good product for the barbeque or say they are 'weekend sausages' and we don't have any pictures on the labels with open fire as other producers have done."
He said Samsonas has been making special barbeque sausages, but customers don't like them.
"We have been producing white sausages for the grill without E250 - this product adds the red color to the meat 's but if they [customers] don't see it, they don't want to buy."
"According to meat product standards, you can't put on the label 'for grill or for barbeque' encouraging people to grill it, but we made the special white sausage recipe 's but they don't listen."
Tomas Vaisvila, communications department manager for Iki supermarket, said there isn't yet a reason to stop selling the products.
"They suspect that it could have a negative impact, but they haven't finished their research that proves it would harm consumers and according to Lithuanian law, there are no restrictions on the sale of this product. The labeling of the sausages is good. At the moment we are selling them," he told TBT.
Stanevicius said he hopes for bad weather until the SFVS makes its decision to deter people from having barbeques.
Vaisvila said that Iki would comply with any rulings from the SFVS.
"Ninety percent of the sausages contain this substance in our collection 's only the German sausages, which aren't popular, don't have it 's this is the situation in the whole market. We are waiting for the research and if it is proved, we will talk with the producers and the food and veterinary service about what to do 's we are just selling the product," he said.
Sausages become toxic when roasted over an open fire or barbeque because they contain nitrites.
"The fried sausages, we are unable to grill on an open fire, because smoke contains phenols, nitrites, and connects to the following health risk nitrophenols," Irene Peciulienes from the SFVS said.
Though the food industry must adhere to strictly defined quantities of E250 allowed in the sausages, producers aren't required to warn consumers of potential side effects.
News portal Delfi reported that it found no safety warning labels on any products containing the chemical saying it is not suitable for open fires.
The SFVS said that meat with the E250 preservative could be boiled or stewed for safe consumption.
Rimi supermarket was unavailable for comment.