Unhealthy additives found in Lunar New Year delicacies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Some festive foods for the Lunar New Year have been found to contain excessive preservatives and a cancer-causing dye, according to test results released yesterday by the Centre for Food Safety.

Two samples of sweetened winter melon were found to contain the preservative sulfur dioxide at levels of 2,800 and 4,700 parts per million, both above the permitted level of 2,000 parts per million.

'Sulfur dioxide's toxicity is low, but people who are allergic to it may suffer respiratory discomfort, headaches and nausea,' a centre spokesman said. However, normal consumption of the food should not pose adverse health effects, he said.

A sample of Chinese pork sausage was found to contain the colouring Red 2G, which is not allowed to be used in food.

The centre spokesman said the immediate health risk of consuming food containing Red 2G was low. 'However, with long-term consumption, the risk of causing cancer cannot be excluded,' he said.

The centre had issued warning letters to the retailers from whom the three unsatisfactory samples had been obtained and they had been asked to stop selling the products, he said. It was also tracing the sources of the products.

But the centre did not name the retailers in its statement yesterday.

The results were obtained from recent tests on 516 food samples, including Lunar New Year favourites like cakes, turnip puddings, sesame balls, sweetened fruit and vegetables.