Ethylene oxide is a highly reactive organic compound that is primarily used to produce other chemicals. It is also used to sterilize medical equipment. Ethylene oxide is a proven carcinogen and mutagen and exposure to ethylene oxide can lead to serious health issues. In order to minimize the risk of health damage, usage of ethylene oxide in food or dietary supplements is prohibited in many countries.
We can confirm from our own experience that the problem of contaminated capsules in the European Union exists. The limits for ethylene oxide residues are exceeded in roughly every third capsule. Unfortunately most suppliers do not address this issue. Consumers can reduce the risk of ethylene oxide exposure by purchasing their supplements from trusted sources. Such producers guarantee the safety of their products that can be at risk of potential contamination through independent testing.
You can learn more about ethylene oxide contamination of food and supplements in this article.
Article at a glanc:
- What is ethylene oxide
- Ethylene oxide toxicity
- History of the use of ethylene oxide in the food industry
- Ethylene oxide contamination of food products in the EU
- Ethylene oxide and dietary supplements
- Trime = EtO free supplements guarantee
What is ethylene oxide
Ethylene oxide is an organic compound with the formula (C2H4O), that is used for making various chemicals and consumer products such as detergents, solvents or plastics. ethylene oxide is a surface disinfectant that is widely used in hospitals and the medical equipment industry.
Ethylene oxide toxicity
Ethylene oxide is a very toxic substance. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies it as a proven carcinogen. The European Chemicals Agency classifies ethylene oxide as a mutagen, carcinogen and reproductive toxicant. 
Ethylene oxide can cause respiratory tract irritation, may lead to headaches, vomiting or fatigue. Chronic exposure can cause brain damage, reduce finger sensitivity, impair coordination of movements or cause liver and kidney damage.
History of the use of ethylene oxide in the food industry
Historically, ethylene oxide was used in the food industry due to its ability to disinfect without using heat treatment as a so-called fumigant ( = a volatile chemical used in a gaseous state to destroy microorganisms and pests).
However, fumigation of food and food storage areas with ethylene oxide has been discontinued in a large part of the world, including Europe. The EU banned the use of this substance in 1991 due to its highly toxic nature. European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 set the maximum residue limits for ethylene oxide in food products at 0.05 mg/kg. 
The regulation of ethylene oxide in a number of countries, including Canada, the USA and India, is very different from the described practice within the European Union. The above-mentioned countries allow the use of ethylene oxide as a food fumigant in the fight against fungi and unwanted bacteria. They can also use ethylene oxide to disinfect freight containers and warehouses.
Products coming from these countries to the EU can be consequently contaminated with unacceptable levels of ethylene oxide during storage and transport.
Ethylene oxide contamination of food products in the EU
In September 2020, Belgium alerted for the first time through the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) the presence of unacceptable amounts of ethylene oxide in sesame seeds imported from India. It was indicated that the level of ethylene oxide exceeded more than 1000 times the permitted limit. 
This was the first of many such alerts, and since September 2020 thousands of food products have been recalled in the European Union due to contamination with this carcinogenic toxic substance.
These were mainly dry food products with a long shelf life such as herbs, spices, cereals or products containing additives such as xanthan gum (E415), carubin (E410) or guar gum (E412).
Ethylene oxide and dietary supplements
In 2021, a RASFF alert for ethylene oxide contamination in calcium carbonate was raised. Calcium carbonate is used not only as a food additive, but is also widely used in dietary supplements and in nutraceutical capsules as an excipient.
In response to increasing cases of contamination of food additives, the European Commission has set a limit of 0.1 mg/kg for the presence of ethylene oxide in food additives. This rule also applies to ethylene oxide used in the production of dietary supplements capsules. If the limits for ethylene oxide content are exceeded, the affected products must be withdrawn from the market and recalled from consumers.
Trime = EtO free supplements guarantee
You can reduce the risks of toxic ethylene oxide exposure by choosing trusted producers or suppliers. Ideally in combination with a guarantee of testing any products that are at risk of potential contamination with ethylene oxide. Ideal is to carry out tests on raw input materials rather than on the finished products, which have to be withdrawn from the market in case of proven contamination.
The purity and high quality of Trime products is crucial for us and we are not indifferent to the potential risk of contamination with the toxic ethylene oxide. In practice we have unfortunately encountered that the limits for ethylene oxide residues are often exceeded. For this reason, we decided to carry out our own analysis, which guarantees that the capsules used in our supplements are so-called "EtO free".