‘UnLucky Me’

By Alex P. Vidal

“Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”—Paracelsus

THE word “investigation” is always fatal.

If your business is food and is “being investigated” for possible contamination of chemical or pesticide, your goose is cooked.

A bakeshop, a cakeshop, a smoothie stand, milk, chocolates, meat shop, and even a noodle brand.

Like “Lucky Me!,” a household brand in the Philippines and of Filipinos living in other countries.

Even if it would be proven that the food product was safe and not part of the reported subject of a “recall” in international supermarkets, the damage to the business of the product could be horrific.

It would become “Unlucky Me!” once news of an “investigation” supposedly launched by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spread like a prairie fire.

If there is an “investigation,” that means something’s wrong somewhere.

Akin to aphorism that when there is smoke there’s fire.

Either the report of possible contamination was a red flag for safety of public health, or it’s a false alarm or even a misinformation drive from jealous business rivals, or all of the above.

There has been no concrete evidence that “Lucky Me!,” a popular noodle brand among Filipinos, reportedly recalled from store shelves in several European countries, had been contaminated by ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic antimicrobial pesticide.


This developed even as The Lucky Me! manufacturer, food conglomerate Monde Nissin Corp., has released a statement admitting they heard about “information being shared” that ethylene oxide was detected in “certain export versions” of its instant noodles, ice cream and other products in a number of European Union (EU) states and Taiwan, triggering the recalls and health safety warnings.

But the FDA investigation is already damaging to some extent.

If it involves food, it’s difficult to erase the stigma and the veener of doubt and fear it would create in the minds of noodle lovers, especially the poor.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Ethylene oxide (EtO) is produced in large volumes and is primarily used as an intermediate in the production of several industrial chemicals, the most notable of which is ethylene glycol.

It is also reportedly used as a fumigant in certain agricultural products and as a sterilant for medical equipment and supplies.

Unfortunately, added the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, EtO possesses several physical and health hazards that merit special attention.


EtO is believed to be both flammable and highly reactive.

Acute exposures to EtO gas may result in respiratory irritation and lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and cyanosis.

Chronic exposure has been associated with the occurrence of cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization.

The European Commission, meanwhile, has reportedly updated the list of imported products subject to checks for aflatoxins, pesticides and microbial contamination.

Changes are reportedly based on incidents reported through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal and information from official controls by member states on food and feed of non-animal origin in the second half of 2021.

The regulation, which came into force earlier this month, temporarily changes the rate of official controls and puts emergency measures on entry into the EU of certain goods from some non-EU countries, according to Food Safety News.

Rules are reportedly modified every six months to account for new information on risks to health and non-compliance with EU legislation.


(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)