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High levels of fungus found in red yeast rice, nuts in Taiwan

High levels of fungus found in red yeast rice, nuts in Taiwan

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Four samples of food products sold in Taiwan markets have been found to be contaminated with high levels of mycotoxins, a naturally occurring chemical produced by fungus, according to test results released Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Three of the contaminated samples were red yeast rice products, while the fourth was ground peanuts, the FDA report showed. The red yeast rice products were sold by Taipei-based Dung Chuan company, the Hsin Yen Hsiang processed farming products cooperative in Pingtung County, and the Tian Cheng Chinese herbs company in Kaohsiung, respectively, the FDA said. The ground peanuts were supplied by Hsieh Hsin food and edible oil company in Yunlin County, according to the FDA report. Under a fungus toxicity monitoring project that was launched in 2013, FDA inspectors tested 204 random samples of peanuts, other nuts and rice sold in markets around Taiwan and found that four of the samples contained excessive levels of citrinin or aflatoxins. The red yeast rice from Tian Cheng tested positive for citrinin at a level of 63.4 parts per million (ppm), way above the maximum allowable level of 5 ppm, the report said. FDA technician Wang Cheng-tzu said Tian Cheng had already sold its entire stock, which was imported from China in 2009. As for other substandard products, measures have been taken to recall and destroy them, Wang added. Red yeast rice is a reddish fermented grain that acquires its color from being cultivated with the mold monascus purpureus. Hsu Hui-yu, head of the food and nutrition department of the John Tung Foundation, said red yeast rice has become popular in Taiwan because it is believed to be able to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Mold can easily grow on grains stored in warm humid conditions, which exist in most parts of Taiwan, Hsu said. Aflatxoins are potent liver toxins and carcinogens in some animals and may also be carcinogenic in humans if consumed in excessive amounts. As for citrinin, physicians have warned that excessive ingestion can cause liver and kidney damage. (By Lung Rui-yun and Elizabeth Hsu)


Updated : 2021-04-15 23:27 GMT+08:00