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Emergency Food Standard for Tahini

Emergency Food Standard for Tahini

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has introduced an Emergency Food Standard aimed at protecting consumers from imported tahini products that could be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

The move follows concern at the number of products containing tahini or crushed sesame seeds imported into New Zealand that have been found to be contaminated with Salmonella. The Emergency Food Standard means that all imported tahini, crushed sesame seeds or foods containing these products will be monitored and tested prior to being released when they arrive in the country.

In July hummus made with tahini was recalled by manufacturers because it was contaminated with Salmonella. This month the New Zealand Food Safety Authority issued three warnings to the public not to eat specific brands of tahini paste and halva, a Lebanese dried confectionery, because they contained Salmonella. These products have been linked to four cases of Salmonella in Auckland. Tahini has also been implicated in outbreaks of Salmonella in Australia and Sweden over the last two years.

“We need to be able to protect at the border from this sort of food contamination instead of waiting for people to get sick before we can deal with the problem. This new Emergency Food Standard will allow us to do that,” Jim Wilson, Programme Manager, Imported Foods said.

Tahini is a sesame seed paste used in many Middle Eastern spreads and dips. It can be used by itself or as a flavour enhancer. It is also referred to as; sesame paste, hamas tahini, tahina, tahine, halva desert mix, sesame seed paste and sesame seed butter. Tahini is used in the manufacture of hummus (halawa), halva, and babaganoush.

"As a general food safety precaution, tahini should be kept in the fridge and consumed by its use-by date. Once the use-by date has expired it should be thrown out,” Mr Wilson said.

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