GEORGE TOWN - It is not possible to get zero nitrite level in bird's nest as it is a naturally occurring chemical, Malaysian Federation of Bird's Nest Merchant Associations secretary Carole Loh said.
"Moreover, the World Health Organisation allows 30 parts per million of nitrite, which is widely used as a preservative in foodstuff.
"Nitrite can also find its way into the bird's nest during the cleaning stage as the use of reverse osmosis water has been found to increase the nitrite level," she said.
Loh, who is also president of Association for Swiftlet Nests Industry of Penang, said China had banned Malaysian bird's nest in early July after it was found to contain nitrite.
"We are urging the Federal Government to hold talks with the Chinese government.
"We are hoping for a government-to-government talk as soon as possible as the export of bird's nest is a multi-million ringgit industry," she said.
Loh said federation members also recently met up with Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Deputy Minister Chua Tee Yong in Putrajaya over the matter.
"In the meantime, birdhouse operators have been advised to take precautions and reduce nitrite traces in bird's nests by using effective microorganism water solution in the houses.
"Operators also have to keep the birdhouses clean and follow the guidelines given by the Veterinary Department."
"Blood nest" - a much sought-after variety of bird's nest - was also banned after it was found to be tainted with chemicals.
Two local bird's nest manufacturers were ordered to cease operations last year for adding nitrates from artificial red colouring to produce "blood nest".
Chua had said their unethical practice was discovered after the ministry received complaints from China importers.
Bird's nest is among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans and has been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, mostly as bird's nest soup.