Four rice-based baby foods found with excess heavy metals: survey

Taipei,  Four out of 20 rice-based baby foods that were randomly selected for testing were found to contain higher than permitted levels of cadmium, the Consumers’ Foundation said Monday.

The products — 11 rice-based powders and nine rice cakes — were randomly chosen from online retailers and stores in Taipei and New Taipei in July, the foundation’s head Terry Huang (黃怡騰) said at a press conference.

Four of the products, a rice-based powder produced by Yifeng Food and rice cakes made by Open Seeds, Want Want and Sanlea, were found to have cadmium levels of 0.05 to 0.3 parts per million (ppm), higher than the permitted level of 0.04 ppm, said Ling Young-chien (凌永健), the foundation’s head of product testing.

All four products were labeled as made in Taiwan, he said.

According to Ling and Hu Feng-pin (胡峰賓), who produces the foundation’s monthly magazine, consuming excess levels of cadmium over a long period of time can cause bone damage and irreversible harm to the kidney.

Ling called for government authorities to conduct their own inspection of the products and order violators to correct the problems under the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.

In response to the report, Yifeng and Sanlea said they did not have enough information to respond immediately, while Want Want said the rice it used had permissible levels of cadmium.

Open Seeds said that while it has not received detailed information on the inspection, it has told retailers to suspend sales of the product pending the results of an SGS report.

In its inspection, the Consumers’ Foundation also tested the products for lead and arsenic, Ling said.

None of the products had excessive levels of lead, he said.

But it was harder to determine whether they had excessive levels of arsenic because Taiwan has not set a standard for arsenic in rice and rice-based products, even though the law requires other grains to have an arsenic level lower than 1 ppm, he said.

If the foundation followed Australia and the United Kingdom’s limit of 1 ppm of arsenic for rice, then all 20 of the products would have passed the inspection because none of them had more than 0.4 ppm of the substance, he said.

In the United States and China, however, the amount of inorganic arsenic that is permitted in grain-based baby foods is 0.1 ppm and 0.2 ppm, respectively, Ling said.

According to Ling, arsenic found in food can be organic and inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is a compound that is cancerous and toxic to humans, while organic arsenic, found in seafood, is less toxic.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) should stipulate limits for arsenic in rice and rice-based baby foods, he said.

Chou Pei-ju (周珮如), a senior technical specialist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responded later Monday that his agency would conduct its own inspection to determine whether the food manufacturers had violated food safety laws.

Violators can be ordered to suspend operations and sales while they correct the issue, and those that fail to resolve the problem within a limited period can be fined, Chou said.

The MOHW randomly inspected 50 baby food products in 2018, 30 in 2019, and 20 this year, and none were found to have excess levels of heavy metals, Chou said.

Also on Monday, Huang Chun-chin (黃俊欽), the head of the Farm Chemicals and Machinery Division of the Agriculture and Food Agency, said his agency was waiting for information from the MOHW on the source of the rice used in the four baby products with excess levels of cadmium.

The agency said that of the 589 plots of land chosen for random inspections this year, five had excess levels of cadmium, and 0.5 hectares were destroyed as a result, Huang said.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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