Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List


Apples and octopuses

The article “Tainted egg yolks found in mooncakes” (Sept. 30, page 1) reports three sets of facts that suggest that some wrong conclusions have been drawn:

One, some mooncakes contained eggs with Sudan IV in concentrations of 1.34 milligrams per kilogram.

Two, in two farms from which the eggs were said to originate, eggs were found to contain Sudan IV in concentrations between 12 and 26 parts per billion (ppb), while ducks had between 196ppb and 308ppb.

Three, 7,000 ducks are to be destroyed and eggs coming from those farms are to be recalled.

The curious part of this report is that the government entities involved are comparing oranges (milligrams per kilogram) and octopuses (parts per billion) without converting to a common unit.

One milligram per 1,000g (1kg) is 1 part per million. Converting to parts per billion as a common unit, the eggs in the mooncakes contain about 1.34 parts per million or 1,340ppb. The eggs at the source contain between 12ppb and 26ppb, so the eggs in the mooncakes contain about 50 to 100 times the concentration found in the eggs.

That factor is large enough that it could not be accounted for by the loss of moisture in the eggs during baking.

If the facts are as reported, it would follow that about 98 to 99 percent of the Sudan IV in the eggs did not come from ducks and therefore not from the farms. Perhaps it is the processors that need culling before the ducks.

The article suggests that the farmers are the focus of attention by such statements as “the farmers might have manually added it to the ducks’ feed” and “the Yunlin District Prosecutors’ Office has launched an investigation.”

However, there are other factors that should be considered.

According to Internet sources, Sudan IV is “not soluble in water” — that does not necessarily exclude solubility at the level of parts per billion.

Moreover, the substance is soluble in many organic products, so if the ducks also feed on algae, worms or insects in their area, the source might well be the environment.

This does not make the culling of 7,000 eggs unjustifiable, but it does raise questions about whether that is the only remedy required.

If the source is in the environment, the replacement ducks would soon be contaminated and the status quo ante would be re-established unless the environmental sources are curbed.

Moreover, if the environment is involved, it might affect humans directly. That should be investigated as well.

Emilio Venezian

New Taipei City

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