Poland hit by alert over rock salt in food

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Polish health authorities have ordered the withdrawal from the market of more than 230 tonnes of pickles, bread and other food suspected of containing industrial salt.

It is the latest development in a scandal that has raised fears about food safety.

Revelations that industrial salt was sold to food producers have prompted authorities to open a criminal investigation and arrest five people.

More than 600 tests have also been carried out on food samples. The industrial salt was intended for treating roads in winter.

Poland is a major regional food exporter, and officials fear the issue will hurt its reputation in a sector key to an economy that has grown quickly in recent years.

With much of its territory devoted to agriculture, Poland produces everything from apples and beetroot to eggs and meat which is sold to Germany and other neighbouring countries.

Laboratory tests so far have found the amounts of dioxins and heavy metals in the salt are minimal and unlikely to harm human health.

Nonetheless, the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate ordered the withdrawal of suspect food as a precaution, spokesman Jan Bondar said.

The foods include vegetables that are preserved in salts, such as pickles, sauerkraut and beetroot, but also sausages, breads and other baked goods.

Even if the salt used does not contain anything harmful, it is not enriched with iodine, as the law requires for food, said the state inspectorate.

It said three companies in northern and western Poland were suspected of selling industrial salt to food producers, a violation that came to light nearly two weeks ago and which has left Polish officials scrambling to ensure that food on the market is safe.

The food producers that used the questionable salt have been told not to let the foods leave their warehouses.

Neighbouring Czech Republic has temporarily banned edible salt imports from Poland as a precaution.