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Health hazards highlighted ahead of holiday barbecues

Bamboo skewers, grills and fishballs all seen to be potentially risky items

Health hazards highlighted ahead of holiday barbecues

Consumers who are preparing to hold barbecues to celebrate the Mid-autumn Festival were warned yesterday of the high possibility that bamboo skewers could contain harmful sulfur dioxide and that grills could release heavy metals into food.
According to the Consumers' Foundation, an inspection showed that 15 out of 21 samples of bamboo skewers or other disposable eating utensils sold in Taipei contained harmful sulfur dioxins.
The foundation explained that sulfur dioxide a type of bleaching agent, and suggested that consumers soak bamboo skewers and other dining utensils in hot water for half an hour to get rid of the sulfur. Consumers should also avoid buying bamboo utensils that look too white or that smell a little sour, the foundation advised.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection under the Ministry of Economic Affairs inspected 60 grills sold around the country and found that 37 of the 60 samples contained the heavy metal, zinc.
The bureau advised that barbecue sauces and vinegar should not be allowed to spill onto barbecue grills as this could release the zinc into the food. According to the United States' National Institute of Health, excess ingestion of zinc is harmful to human health, the bureau said.
With the approach of the Mid-autumn Festival, the Consumers' Foundation last month inspected 21 samples of disposable skewers, toothpicks and fruit forks as well as coffee stirrers, all of which were made of bamboo and sold in Taipei's supermarkets, traditional markets or hypermarkets.
The foundation found that 15 out of the 21 samples contained sulfur dioxide residue, with the level of residue on five of the 15 samples being recorded at between 100 ppm and 400 ppm.
Another five samples, including "Yuan Hsin" skewers, "Rice" skewers, "Skewers," and "Hong Lin" fruit forks and "High-Class" fruit forks, were found to contain over 400 ppm of sulfur dioxide, while the level of residual sulfur dioxide in the other five samples was just under 100 ppm.
According to Department of Health regulations, the acceptable upper limit of residual sulfur dioxide in general food products is 30 ppm with the acceptable level in shrimps, prawns, lobsters and other shellfish being at most 100 ppm.
The government has not set up an acceptable upper limit on the level of sulfur dioxide residue on dining utensils made of bamboo.
According to Jason Lee (李鳳翱), director general of the Consumers' Foundation, the ingestion of sulfur dioxide over a long period of time could lead to osteoporosis in females.
Cheng Cheng-yung, a member of the foundation's food commission and a professor of horticulture at National Taiwan University, explained that the ingestion of sulfur dioxide can also cause asthma attacks and vomiting.
Terry Huang (黃怡騰), secretary-general of the foundation, urged the government to establish standards for bamboo utensil manufacturers to follow.
In response, Chief Director of the Department of Health's Bureau of Food Safety Hsiao Tung-ming (蕭東銘) said that next year the DOH will ask experts and scholars to conduct research on acceptable level of residual sulfur dioxide on bamboo utensils and to establish a standard.
Meanwhile, following an inspection of seafood balls, the Consumers' Foundation found that two samples of fishballs sold at Taipei's Hsiungwei supermarket and Jingmei supermarket contained hydrogen peroxide.
The foundation urged that the meatballs should be recalled and thrown out immediately, noting that hydrogen peroxide is used as a bactericide and is strictly prohibited in food products. The consumption of foods containing hydrogen peroxide could result in acute gastro enteritis.


Updated : 2021-04-21 22:44 GMT+08:00