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Popular Chinese konjac snacks among Taiwanese elementary students spark health concerns

Experts warn Chinese konjac snacks may contain excessive sodium

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Chinese konjac snacks. (CNA photo)

Chinese konjac snacks. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Konjac snacks from China have become a sensation among Taiwanese elementary school students, triggering concerns from experts regarding potential health risks.

Recent reports highlight the growing popularity of various flavors of Chinese konjac products (魔芋爽) among Taiwanese students. A Kaohsiung-based teacher, surnamed Lin (林), revealed that some students were caught eating the snacks in restrooms due to their campus ban, per ETToday.

Although the snack itself is not new, its increased availability in convenience stores has contributed to its widespread appeal, according to Lin. When cautioned against its consumption, a student questioned the safety of food sold in convenience stores.

An 18-gram pack of Chinese konjac contains 227 milligrams of sodium. Nephrologist Wang Chieh-li (王介立) pointed out that the sodium levels in this ultra-processed food are nearly equivalent to the salt content in the "saltiest dried plums available in 7-Eleven."

Yen Tzung-hai (顏宗海), a toxicology researcher at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, noted that recommended daily sodium limits vary among age groups. Children aged 4 to 8 should not exceed 1,500 mg per day, while those aged 9 to 13 should stay below 1,800 mg, according to CNA.

Consuming konjac snacks alongside regular meals, soups, and other foods may result in youngsters surpassing these limits, warned Yen, highlighting the potential for high-sodium diets to contribute to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, irrespective of age.

Between Jan. 1, 2022, and Oct. 31, 2023, Taiwan imported over 515 tons of Chinese konjac products.