An Indonesian food giant has defended the safety of its products following recalls in Malaysia and Taiwan, where health officials say they have discovered a potentially cancer-causing substance in the popular Indomie brand of instant noodles.
“We would like to emphasize that … our Indomie instant noodles are safe for consumption,” Taufik Wiraatmadja, a member of the board of directors at Indofoods, said in a statement issued Friday.
“All instant noodles produced by (Indofood) in Indonesia are processed in compliance with the food safety standards from the Codex Standard for Instant Noodles and standards set by the Indonesian National Agency for Drug and Food Control (BPOM).”
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Indofoods is one of the world’s largest makers of instant noodles and exports its products to more than 90 countries including Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, where they are especially popular.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the company’s director and president commissioner Franciscus Welirang confirmed it had “strictly followed and complied” with domestic and international health and food safety standards.
Health officials in Malaysia and Taiwan said this week they had detected a compound called ethylene oxide in Indomie’s “special chicken” flavor noodles.
Ethylene oxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is used to sterilize medical devices and spices. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the gas can contribute to increased cancer risk.
The Ministry of Health in Malaysia said it had examined 36 samples of instant noodles from different brands since 2022 and found that 11 samples contained ethylene oxide.
“Enforcement action was taken,” Health Director-General Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said in a statement Wednesday.
The affected products have since been recalled, he added. It was unclear if other brands were implicated.
The news came just days after a Monday announcement from Taipei’s Department of Health that officials had detected ethylene oxide in two types of instant noodles, including the Indomie chicken flavor, following random inspections made in the capital.
“The detection of ethylene oxide in the product did not comply with [standards],” it said in a statement. “Businesses have been ordered to immediately remove them from their shelves.”
The ministry added that the gas was not approved for use in Taiwan as a pesticide or disinfectant.
In a statement on Thursday, Indonesia’s food and drug monitoring agency said the products available locally were “safe for consumption as it met its safety standards” — despite containing traces of ethylene oxide. The agency also urged Indofood to ensure products did not contain high levels of the chemical.
On the same day, Indonesia’s director general of foreign trade Budi Santoso told a news conference that local officials had “immediately checked” the recalled products and found them to be safe for consumption.
He said Taiwan’s regulations “were very sensitive and different” as compared to guidelines in Indonesia.
Watchdogs and local lawmakers in the country have urged the government to investigate further. Politician Kurniasih Mufidayati called on the food and drugs agency to test more samples of Indomie to ensure that they were safe.
“Give a sense of safety to consumers, by testing regularly and announcing the results to the public,” she said in a statement.
Indomie first launched instant noodles in 1972 with a chicken flavor. Ten years later, it started selling its wildly popular “mi goreng” flavor, which was invented by Nunuk Nuraini, a recipe developer at the company.
Unlike most types of instant ramen, Indomie noodles are typically eaten dry, without needing to prepare soup. They are often mixed with a variety of condiments like ketchup, chili, soy sauce and MSG flavoring as well as fried shallots. It is a common dish served at street food vendors in many Indonesian cities.
Nigeria is one of the highest consumers of the Indomie instant noodles.