BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister Monday referred findings of Natamycin use in labneh production to the state prosecutor and called for bringing to account those responsible for the practice.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour referred the findings to the public prosecutor’s office to “hold accountable those the investigation reveals were responsible [for using Natamycin in dairy products] and take the necessary judicial measures against them,” according to a Health Ministry statement.
“The use of Natamycin, which [some local] dairy plants admitted to adding, is against the standard specifications set by Lebanon,” it said, adding that although Natamycin was used in some countries for surface treatment of cheese, the agent “should not be mixed with labneh.”
Last week, media reports spoke of Natamycin traces in some labneh products from at least two factories, causing uproar in a country that has been hit with a series of food-related health scares.
The ministry said laboratory test results from UFAG, a prominent international laboratory based in Switzerland, indicated that milk products of Dairy Khoury and Dairy D had traces of Natamycin.
Natamycin, also known as pimaricin and sometimes sold as Natacyn, is a naturally occurring substance produced during fermentation by bacteria found in soil.
In its statement, the ministry said there were no published studies on the public health effects of using Natamycin at the levels found in the labneh, particularly on children.
The prosecutor’s office is expected to launch an investigation into the case as soon as possible and will most likely issue requests to summon officials from the two dairy plants.