Four more starch-based food products from Taiwan have been ordered off the shelves in Singapore after Singaporean authorities said they were found to contain maleic acid.
The products are green tea tapioca balls and yam tapioca balls sold under the “Full Free” label, and Long Kow Foods Enterprise Corp’s (龍口食品) instant vegetarian rice vermicelli (米粉) and rice vermicelli soup (米粉羹), according to a statement issued on Friday by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore.
“AVA informed the importers of the affected products to withdraw them from sale immediately. The withdrawal has been completed,” the statement said.
“Consumers who have bought these products should either return them to the retailer or discard them,” it added.
Earlier last week, 11 Taiwanese products were recalled in Singapore because they alleged contained maleic anhydride-modified starch. Tapioca starch, tapioca pearls, indica rice powder and noodles were among the products recalled.
The AVA said it is continuing to inspect products from Taiwan.
It warned that long-term consumption of high levels of maleic acid can cause kidney damage, although occasional consumption at the levels detected does not pose a significant health risk.
The chemical was recently detected in a number of popular Taiwanese food products, such as rice noodles, hotpot ingredients and tapioca balls.
The substance has been traced to a modified starch containing maleic anhydride, a chemical used in the production of food packing materials. Maleic anhydride transforms into maleic acid when mixed with water. Its use as a food additive is banned in Taiwan.
Long Kow issued a statement on its Web site yesterday, along with test reports issued by certification company SGS Taiwan for the company’s bean vermicelli (冬粉) products and certain food ingredients, to show that its products had passed inspection and did not contain maleic acid.
As for the instant rice vermicelli products found to contain maleic acid in Singapore, the company apologized and said the products had been taken off the shelves.
“To the consumers, we are very sorry. Our company has sent this product series to labs for inspection, and we have requested all major supermarkets to take them off the shelves,” the statement said, adding that the company is willing to refund consumers.
The company said that the rice vermicelli products were made by an outside contractor, a large Taiwanese rice vermicelli manufacturer.
The ingredients in the product’s condiment pouch were also produced by an outside contractor, a large food manufacturer in Yunlin County, it said.
These two contractors are well-established food manufacturers and both have provided reports which purportedly show the ingredients used do not contain maleic acid, the company said, adding that it was surprised by the Singaporean authority’s findings.
In response to media queries about the latest recall of Taiwanese products in Singapore, Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the first step was to confirm whether the manufacturers of the food products in question in Singapore were the same as the domestic manufacturers.
“The second step is to check the batch numbers and manufacturing dates of the exported products. The authority will then examine whether the products made and raw materials used by the manufacturers in Taiwan are up to standard,” Kang said.