Chairman of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association Haraldur Benediktsson declared the use of industrial salt in food products to be “inexcusable carelessness” and expressed concern that the matter might harm the image of Icelandic agricultural products.
At an Icelandic farm. Archive photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“Overall, this is a messed-up and careless. People don’t bother to look at what they’re using and handling and to me that cannot be excused in any way,” Haraldur stated to ruv.is.
“The trademark of Icelandic farms is supposed to be that their products are healthy. Of course this can harm the image of [agricultural products], same as that of cakes and biscuits and bread and everything else that’s involved—the entire Icelandic food industry appears to be using this salt,” Haraldur concluded.
According to RÚV’s sources, 91 companies bought 500 tons of industrial salt in total from the beverage producer and importer Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson last year.
Many of these companies used the salt for food production, only a few of which were willing to comment.
The dairy company Mjólkursamsalan (MS) reacted quickly and called in five product categories which included industrial salt yesterday.
Eiður Gunnlaugsson, managing director of the meat product company Kjarnafæði, told ruv.is that there is no reason to order a product recall, explaining that they had been told that the salt was harmless and that it was all right to finish the stock.
“It should also be noted that we have used this salt for one or two decades. It wasn’t until [Sunday evening] that I realized how serious this is and in fact just nasty business,” Eiður commented, however adding that he found people were being unnecessarily nervous.
Ölgerðin published an apology for selling salt not stamped with “food grade” to food producers on its website yesterday. However, the company iterated that the industrial salt “is a perfectly legal product and there is nothing wrong with importing and selling it.”
The salt, which comes from AkzoNobel and is produced in Denmark, contains the same ingredients as food grade salt but the difference lies in the surveillance of the product. The producer has stated that the industrial salt is harmless.
Ölgerðin stated that they had never attempted to conceal the fact that the salt was industrial salt; it was sold in its original packaging on which “industrial salt” is printed in large letters (see the above picture).
Jón Gíslason, director of the Icelandic Food and Veterinarian Authority (MAST), said on Rás 2 radio yesterday that it had been a mistake to permit Ölgerðin to sell its remaining stock of industrial salt after this case surfaced in November—the case should have been referred immediately to the Health Protection Authority of Reykjavík.
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