Industrial Salt Used at Iceland’s Largest Food Producers Skip to content

Industrial Salt Used at Iceland’s Largest Food Producers

Many of the country’s largest food companies were among those who bought industrial salt for food production from beverage producer and importer Ölgerðin, as stated in a list published on the website of the Reykjavík Health Protection Authority yesterday.


Icelandic grocery store (photo unrelated to story). By ESA.

These include the meat product manufacturers Sláturfélag Suðurlands (SS) and Kjarnafæði as well as dairy product company Mjólkursamsalan (MS), Fréttablaðið reports.

It was revealed that industrial salt had been sold to food companies earlier this winter and in mid-November the Icelandic Food and Veterinarian Authority (MAST) notified the Health Protection Authority of the situation, stating that they had permitted Ölgerðin to finish its salt stocks. The Health Protection Authority disagreed with the decision.

Jóhannes Gunnarsson, chairman of the Consumers’ Association of Iceland, said that even though the conduct of surveillance institutions and suppliers can certainly be criticized in this matter, the responsibility lies first and foremost with food producers.

“It is in violation of regulations to use industrial salt for food production and this is where the violation is taking place,” Jóhannes pointed out.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Steingrímur J. Sigfússon said his ministry considers this matter to be serious and that it will be reviewed in detail.

When asked whether it may impact the image of the Icelandic food industry, Steingrímur declared that it depends on what happens next.

“It depends on how those involved react and whether people demonstrate in a credible manner that this will not be repeated. Credibility and reputation is to a large extent determined by the dedication demonstrated after such a matter surfaces,” the minister explained.

CEO of MS Einar Sigurðsson declared yesterday evening that the company had not known that the salt in question had not been intended for food production. It was only used for a short period of time and only in two of the company’s more than 500 products, he said.

He agreed that the matter is serious. “We aim for top quality production and materials and therefore it is very inconvenient when such incidents occur. We reacted immediately and stopped the distribution of dairy products which contain industrial salt.”

Morgunblaðið reports that comparable research indicates that there is hardly any difference between the industrial salt carried by Ölgerðin and salt specifically intended for food production.

The salt normally used in food production contains 99.8 percent NaCl and the industrial salt 99.6 percent. The copper content is 0.1 mg/kg in the food salt and 0.4 mg/kg in the industrial salt.

According to Codex quality standard, NaCl content must be no less than 97 percent in food grade salt and the copper content is not to exceed 2.0 mg/kg and so both grades are safe to use for food production.

The Dutch company Akzo Nobel, which produced the salt for Ölgerðin, responded to an enquiry by MAST stating that the industrial salt does not pose a risk to consumers’ health but as not as strict demands are made on its production and storage as food grade salt it shouldn’t be used in food products.

“This matter is first and foremost about surveillance and we at Ölgerðin understand that,” said CEO of Ölgerðin Andri Þór Guðmundsson.

“We have carried this salt for 13 years and before that it was carried by others. It is not at all dangerous which is why MAST permitted us to finish the stock,” he elaborated.

“Even so we are sorry that this happened and we will review all our procedures to prevent it from happening again,” Andri Þór concluded.


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