Warning over aluminium levels in Hong Kong snacks

Centre for Food Safety finds locals’ intake of the light metal mostly from baked goods

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:12pm

Common local snacks such as egg waffles, Ma Lai cake and other baked goods contain high levels of aluminium – an excess of which can cause kidney damage and affect children’s development – the Centre for Food Safety has found.

In the second study on Hongkongers’ intake of the light metal, the centre also found its level in 19 of 36 tested foods dropped since 2009. Aluminium is often found in additives such as raising agent, firming agent and colourings.

Dr Samuel Yeung Tze-kiu, the centre’s principal medical officer, said: “We would like the food industry to beware of the level of aluminium in the food additives and see if there can be other replacements.”

The study also found that Hongkongers’ aluminium intake mostly came from steamed buns, bread and other bakery products, but that in general their intake was unlikely to be a health risk.

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According to the World Health Organisation, the tolerable weekly intake of aluminium for adults is 2毫milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The level for children is even lower.

The average level for Hongkongers’ was 0.49 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

The centre took 309 food samples from May to July last year.

Jelly fish, a cold dish usually served as the first course in Chinese restaurants, was found to contain the most aluminium among all food.

Other traditional Cantonese snacks such as egg waffles and Ma Lai cake also contain lots of aluminium. Eating two of the waffles or three of the cakes in a week would exceed the tolerable level.

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Given consumers’ loyalty to food products, it was difficult to rule out adverse health effects from high concentrations of aluminium, Yeung said, advising people to avoid eating just a small range of food.

“They should maintain a balanced diet,” he said.