Last updated on 14 December 2001

Mini fruit gels: your questions answered

Your questions answered about the mini fruit gel sweets containing Konjac.

  • What are these products?

    These sweets are imported from Asia and are marketed under names such as 'Mini Fruity Gels' and 'mini Fruit Bites.'

    Known names include:

    • ABC Mini Fruit Bites
    • Fuji Coconut Flavor Jelly
    • Healthy Konnyaku
    • Jn Jin Konjac Coconut Mini Gel Snack
    • New Choice Mini Fruit Gels
    • New Century's Choice
    • Rolin Mango Jelly Cup
    • Troofy Gels

    The following are not necessarily brand names, but are probably manufacturers, since the brand names were not given in English.

    • Mong Lee Shang (China) Fruit Jelly
    • Jian Fu Trading Co. (Taiwan) Lichee Jelly

    N.B - This is not a comprehensive list. Other brands may have been on sale in the UK.

  • What do they look like?

    They are usually sealed in a plastic cup, similar to a coffee creamer container, with a peel-off foil lid. They are dome-shaped, about 3 cm wide at the base, tapering to 2 cm wide at the top of the dome and are about 3 cm deep. They are a translucent jelly and usually contain an oblong chunk of ‘fruit’ - which is in fact a harder, more compact gel.

  • What ingredients do they contain?

    The products in question contain 'konjac' which may also be identified as glucomannan, konyak, konjac gum, konyac, conjac, konnyaku or konnuyaku.

  • Where have these products been on sale?

    We know that they have often been available in small/corner shops and possibly stall at street markets. We cannot be certain, however, that they are not available in other shops.

  • What is the problem?

    A number of deaths have been reported from around the world that have been linked to choking episodes caused by this type of sweet. There are reports of a total of 18 deaths, mainly young children, including eight in Japan and six in the United States. The others were in Taiwan, Canada and Australia.

  • Have there been problems in the UK?

    This further warning comes following the death of a young child in February in the UK. The cause of death is not yet known and is subject to an inquest which has not yet been held.

    However, the fact that a mini cup gel sweet may have been a factor in the death cannot be excluded at this stage

  • What is the Agency's advice?

    Parents should be alert to the potential risk from these sweets and children should not eat or buy them.

  • What action have you taken?

    We issued preliminary advice to parents as soon as we were aware of a problem with these products in August 2001. We then sought expert advice as to the nature and extent of the problem and acted on this in December 2001. We issued a Food Hazard Warning to local authorities. Trading standards officers were advised to visit shops and check that the sweets were being taken off the shelves. Port authorities were also alerted. Known importers, distributors and retailers were contacted directly by the Agency to inform them of the advice contained in the Food Hazard Warning and to advise them to withdraw the products from sale. We published our advice widely through the media and other channels. We have now issued a food hazard warning reiterating our advice.

  • What powers are there for action by local authorities?

    Local authority trading standards officers can take action under the General Product Safety Regulations, 1994. This allows for products to be removed from the market if they are deemed to be unsafe.

  • What has been the outcome of the action?

    Trading standards officers have reported the removal of large stocks of sweets. Last month, containers at Southampton Docks holding 57,000 Malaysia-made Konnyaku jelly sweets were confiscated during a joint operation by Southampton Trading Standards and Port Health Authority.

  • What about other sweets?

    These mini cup gel sweets present a particular risk. They are difficult to get out of the 'cup' container - children find it easier to suck them directly into the mouth - which increases the risk of the sweet becoming inhaled in the trachea and stuck in the back of the throat. Because of the consistency (a flexible jelly) and poor solubility of these konjac jelly sweets, they are both easy to inhale and then difficult to dislodge from the windpipe

  • Why is the warning label on the containers not sufficient?

    The FSA believes that the warning does not properly protect consumers, particularly children. The warning label is not on the 'cup' containers of the individual sweets, so children or parents would often not be aware of the warning. The warning on the plastic packets/large jars is often in verty small writing and easy to miss. Also small children cannot read. In addition, we do not know if all of these sweets available in the UK come with a warning label.

  • Is Konjac permitted for use in foods?

    Yes. Konjac (E 425) is an additive (thickener) which has been approved for safety by the EC Scientific Committee on Food and has, since 1998/9, been permitted to be used in a wide range of foods under UK/EC miscellaneous additives legislation.

  • What foods is it found in?

    Konjac is permitted to be used in most processed foods, but is typically used as a thickener and stabiliser in dessert gels, aspics, frozen desserts, sauces (including salad dressings and mayonnaise) and batters.

  • Is it prohibited from use in any foods?

    Konjac and other gums are prohibited from being used to produce dehydrated foods intended to rehydrate on ingestion (e.g. slimming pills intended to swell in the stomach but which may stick in the oesophagus and cause choking).

  • What are you doing regarding imports of these sweets into the UK?

    Port Health Authorities as well as local authorities are being sent a further Food Hazard Warning advising about the removal of this product from sale. We are also working with local authorities to further identify importers and distributors.