In a gross mistake, industrial salt not intended for human consumption has been sold in Iceland as food salt for 13 years, Icelandic officials said Tuesday.
"The salt is not safe because foreign entities can be found in it, for example rocks, metals and other things that are filtered out of table salt," Reykjavik Health Protection Authority official Oskar Isfeld Sigurdsson told the daily Frettabladid.
Olgerdin Egill Skallagrimsson, a wholesale importer and beverage producer, imported the industrial salt, which is used to de-ice roads or in chemical production, from Denmark.
It has been used in food production by dozens of Icelandic meat producers, fish producers and bakeries for 13 years, Olgerdin said, but not sold directly to consumers.
The bags of salt were clearly marked as containing industrial salt, but Olgerdin chief executive Andri Thor Gudmundsson said company employees did not react.
"We were not aware that the salt was not certified for food production. We knew it was for industrial use, but thought it was for the food industry," he told Icelandic public broadcaster RUV.
"Olgerdin and the companies that used the salt in food production have admitted negligence and mistakes because the salt was not stamped 'food grade' and was not certified for use for the food industry. Olgerdin apologises for that mistake," it said in a statement issued on Monday.
MS Iceland Dairies, the country's largest dairy producer, said it had recalled five products from stores because the salt figured among their ingredients.
Health officials said the industrial salt was "not safe and should not be on the market."
"In the production of table salt there are requirements about the handling and storage of the product that are not required in regard to industrial salt. It is stored in different conditions and there are no requirements on checking for foreign bodies in the salt because it is not intended for human consumption," Sigurdsson said.