Tue, Dec 19, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Winter solstice rice dumplings can be a health hazard

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Enjoying a hot sweet bowl of glutinous rice dumplings, or tang yuan, during the winter solstice has been a tradition to mark the arrival of winter.

However, consumers should be aware that some rice products can contain illegal preservatives, a survey released yesterday showed.

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) found that nearly 20 percent of rice dumplings sold in 17 traditional markets in Taipei City and Taipei County failed the food safety test it conducted earlier this month.

National inspection standards state that glutinous rice dumplings should not contain benzoic acid, dehydroacetic acid or salicylic acid. The quantity of hexadienoic acid should be limited to under 0.5g per kilogram, the foundation said.

However, two samples collected in Taipei City's Guting Market and Taipei County's Chihsien Market in Luzhou (蘆洲) were found to contain dehydroacetic acid.

The products sold in Taipei City's Chenggong Market had an excessive amount of hexadienoic acid, foundation chairman Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) said at a press conference yesterday.

Cheng said that experiments conducted in Japan showed that animals vomited and suffered spasms after eating over 0.3g of dehydroacetic acid per kilogram of food. In worst-case scenarios, this quantity could also lead to death.

He warned that the preservative could damage kidney functions.

Although hexadienoic acid contains lower levels of toxicity, Cheng said that manufacturers should still avoid adding an excessive amount of it to foodstuffs.

The Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) states that manufacturers who add illegal preservatives to their food could face fines ranging from NT$30,000 (US$920) and NT$150,000 and their products could be confiscated for destruction.

The foundation also reminded consumers that eating too many rice dumplings would add to one's waistline.

Ten small rice dumplings with no stuffing contains approximately 70 calories, equal to one-fourth of a bowl of plain rice.

Sesame or peanut-filled glutinous rice balls can be more problematic: consuming four stuffed rice dumplings brings in 280 calories, equal to one bowl of plain rice, Cheng said.

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