Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Food additives at unhealthy levels, group says

INDIGESTION Many boxed meals sold at major convenience store chains across the country contain unhealthy or illegal levels of preservatives, a study by the Consumers' Foundation found

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Consumers' Foundation announced yesterday the results of a survey which found that several brands of boxed meals sold at convenience stores contain unhealthy and illegally high amounts of food additives and preservatives.

The boxed meals, known as biendang, have become a popular meal option for those on the run.

Of 20 samples taken from 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Niko Mart, Circle K and Hi-life, only five 7-Eleven boxed meals were free of preservatives.

At the same time, none of the meals sampled indicated the use of preservatives on their labels.

In addition, the survey found that while health regulations state only certain amounts of the preservative benzoic acid can be added to select types of food, the ingredient was detected in several food items not approved for its use. The survey also found that the preservative was used in excess quantities in food items to which the preservative is allowed.

Various food items in the boxed meals sold at Family Mart, Niko Mart, and Hi-life were found to have benzoic acid despite regulations against its use. Circle K, Family Mart, and Hi-life also sold meals with food items containing benzoic acid in greater quantities than legally permitted.

While health regulations allow between 0.6 to one grams per kg of benzoic acid, boxed meals from Hi-life, Family mart, and Circle K all contained amounts well over the limit.

Illegal quantities of sulfide, a bleaching agent frequently used as a preservative, were also found in two sampled items from Family Mart and Niko Mart.

"The sulfide is actually more dangerous than the benzoic acid because it could trigger symptoms in asthma patients," said Lee Cherh-yu (李哲瑜), an associate professor of restaurant management at the Kuang Wu Institute of Technology and Commerce.

"The adverse side effects of these food additives are still being studied, but basically, the tests found that boxed meals contained more than what is legally permissible for health reasons," Lee said.

Convenience store representatives said yesterday that their products undergo thorough testing. Hi-life and Family Mart representatives said the preservatives found in the boxed meals were a result of preservatives used in soy sauce. They pointed out that the Department of Health allowed for up to 0.6g per kg of benzoic acid in soy sauce.

Representatives from both companies stated the boxed meals in question have already been taken off the market until further testing is done.

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