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Fails in check of New Year’s foods in New Taipei City
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-23 11:36 AM
On Wednesday the Bureau of Health of New Taipei City issued a report on random tests of various high-risk New Year’s foods in the market now. The most glaring discoveries were a 100% failure rate in packages of bamboo pith fungus as well as a failure rate of 55.6% for golden needle mushrooms. Lin Chin-fu, Deputy Director of the bureau, said that the total failure rate for the bamboo pith fungus calls for a criminal investigation to ferret out unscrupulous businesses in the market and guarantee public food safety.

Lin Kuan-chen, the Director of the Food and Drug Office of the Health Bureau, pointed out that the Bureau of Health regularly carries out random tests in the city's traditional markets, groceries and food and beverage outlets in January each year. The sampling focused on 39 classes of products including cakes, bamboo pith fungus, golden needle mushrooms and a range of aquaculture products. He said problems were found in 16 product categories, with the most serious being extremely high rates of sulfur dioxide in bamboo pith fungus and golden needle mushrooms. One sample of bamboo pith fungus sold in bulk was found to contain 10.690g/kg of sulfur dioxide, more than 20 times the allowable standard of 0.5g/kg.

Lin added that levels of sulfur dioxide in samples of golden needle mushrooms tested out at 16.030g/kg, four times the standard of 4.0g/kg. Groceries in Sanchong and Xinzhuang that were selling golden needle mushrooms that failed the test, then were unable to give authorities the name of the supplier, were fined NT$30,000 in accordance with the Food Sanitation Management Act.

In addition, one grocer was found selling grouper bearing the compounds malachite green and leucomalachite, dyes illegally used in some aquaculture operations to control bacteria in fish eggs. The bureau issued a fine of NT$60,000 in that case. Stores and vendors selling bamboo pith fungus and golden needle mushrooms with excess levels of sulfur dioxide could face fines ranging from NT$ 30,000 to 3 million in accordance with food sanitation laws.

Lin notes that sulfur dioxide is often used as a bleaching agent for foods, and the use of excessive levels leaves behind sulphites that can cause breathing problems in humans. As for malachite green, studies with animals show that it can damage the liver, cause anemia and thyroid abnormalities and affect fetal growth.

Lin cautions the public that bamboo pith fungus should be soaked in cold water for at least one hour, changing the water after every 30 minutes, or in warm (45℃) water for half an hour, to reduce any sulfur dioxide content. Consumers should buy only from reputable dealers and purchase only pre-packaged products to avoid the risk of illegal compounds.

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