Watchdog warns over preservatives used in dried fruit
Hongkongers often snack on dried fruits because they are seen as healthy and natural, when in fact they carry preservatives that can be unhealthy, the consumer watchdog warned on Monday morning.
A Consumer Council survey of 50 dried fruits available on the market found that they each contained at least one type of preservative, such as sulphur dioxide, sorbic acid and benzoic acid.
The samples tested included dried mangoes, kumquats, prunes and lemons, with and without packaging.
Professor Ron Hui Shu-yuen, vice-chairman of the council’s community-relations committee, said: “Despite its low toxicity, sulphur dioxide can cause allergic reactions like asthmatic attacks, headaches or nausea in some people sensitive to the chemicals.”
Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin and aspartame, were also present in the samples and can cause adverse health effects.
Although saccharin has been evaluated as safe by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, some countries – including the United States – permit its use only in specified foods.
Aspartame poses a danger, Hui said, to people suffering from phenylketonuria, a rare condition in which their body cannot break down the amino acid phenylalanine – which is a break-down product of aspartame.
The council advises consumers to read food labels, to avoid an excessive intake of food additives.