The European Commission has strongly criticised food importers for not being vigilant enough following revelations that illegal GM (genetically modified) rice from China had been allowed into the bloc.
"The presence of traces of unauthorised GMOs in food in the EU is illegal and it is the responsibility of operators to ensure that they do not place on the market food which does not comply with EU law," a commission spokesperson said on Tuesday (5 September).
The commission was reacting to reports by environmental groups that illegal genetically engineered rice from China had got into food products in France, Germany and the UK.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth tested samples of rice products and found five positive samples where illegal GM traces were found.
"These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses," said Jeremy Tager from Greenpeace international.
The green groups noted that the findings could be the "tip of the iceberg" as rice products are "included in everything from baby food to yoghurt."
Speaking about the findings, the commission said "Operators are clearly not doing enough."
"The commission has written on Friday to operators...[to say] that we expect any rice product with illegal content to be kept off the market."
The commission is also going to write to the Chinese authorities to ask for further information about the case, said the spokesperson.
Friends of the Earth called for an immediate ban on Chinese rice imports.
"The European Commission must react quickly and ban imports from China until consumers can be guaranteed that foods containing rice are safe from contamination," said spokesman Adrian Bebb.
"Chinese foods already in shops should also be immediately tested and products recalled if necessary."
This is the second time illegal GM products have entered the EU in less than a month - although no GM rice products have been approved for sale in Europe.
In August, US long-grain rice containing the unauthorised genetically modified strain LL Rice 601 also found its way into the bloc.
The commission responded by imposing tough restrictions under which all long-grain rice from the US must be tested for this strain before being allowed into the EU - the measures are to stay in place for six months.
EU member state authorities are responsible for controlling imports at their borders and should also carry out controls on products already on the market.
The commission on Tuesday asked them to do more at their borders and make reports to an expert EU committee on 11 September.