Chemicals found in traditional delicacies

Chemicals found in traditional delicacies
PHOTO: AFP

Products of Hsin Tung Yang and I-mei Foods, two major companies known for their traditional Taiwanese delicacies and snacks, were ordered off the shelves as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed yesterday that some of their products were found to contain chemical compounds in quantities exceeding legal limits.

FDA officials have been working with local health bureaus to inspect food products, especially those commonly used for the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations, as the festival nears.

The report revealed yesterday that by June 16, local health bureaus around the nation had collected 628 samples, 56 of which failed to meet regulations. During the examinations, officials checked whether the products contain illegal chemical compounds, including bleaching agents and food preservatives, as well as whether legal compounds are used within legal limits.

According to officials of the Taoyuan City Department of Health yesterday, most violations to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation were regarding high amounts of sulphur dioxide or benzoic acid illegally used in food products.

Popular brands such as Hsin Tung Yang and I-mei Foods had products that failed to pass inspections, officials said. Both companies' Zongzi leaves, which are bamboo leaves used to wrap up zongzi, the sticky rice dumplings often stuffed with cooked peanuts and meat, were found to contain sulphur dioxide concentrations higher than safety levels allow.

For more information please check the FDA website at http://www.fda.gov.tw/TC.

In response, representatives of I-mei Foods said that the company had tested their products before release into the markets, and all had passed their own examinations. They will be filing for a re-inspection.

Representatives of Hsin Tung Yang said that the sample collected by the FDA is "raw leaves," which will be washed and processed, removing sulphur dioxide from the leaves, before making into zongzi for sale. Therefore, the company affirmed that their products are safe to consume in a press release later in the evening.

Companies Face Up to NT$3 Million (S$129,000) Fine

According to the FDA, companies violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation will be fined from NT$30,000 to NT$3 million. Tainted products were immediately removed from shelves, officials said.

Officials said that dried shrimp should have a light orange colour and barely any smell, and if they look too pale, they may contain too much sulphur dioxide. Consuming too much sulphur dioxide could lead to vomiting, allergic reactions or illness. Consumers are advised to soak food products in warm water before cooking so as to wash out some of the chemical compounds.

Carcinogens Found in Hakka Zongzi

FDA chief Chiang Yu-mei said that three of the Hakka zongzi samples taken from a traditional market in Shulin, New Taipei City, were found to contain borax residue. Borax is a type of carcinogen, once commonly used as a food additive, but which is now strictly forbidden.

Chiang added that according to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, manufactures responsible for adding borax to food will be fined a maximum NT$200 million.

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