Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Bleached chopsticks can harm, group says

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A woman holds a bunch of bamboo chopsticks yesterday after the Consumers' Foundation held a press conference announcing that it had found high levels of sulfur dioxide in many eating utensils.

PHOTO: SUNG CHIH-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Excessive levels of sulfur dioxide have been found in bamboo products such as disposable chop-sticks and skewers, a consumer group said yesterday.

Although the use of sulfur dioxide in bleaching and sanitizing bamboo products is not currently controlled by the law, the Consumers' Foundation warned at a press conference yesterday that consumers could be unwittingly ingesting a substance that can hasten osteoporosis as well as cause serious allergic reactions in some people.

According to National Taiwan University professor of horticulture and Consumers' Foundation committee member Cheng Cheng-yung (鄭正勇), the use of sulfur dioxide is not necessary.

"The industry should make an effort to better sterilize their bamboo products. With a lower moisture content and vacuum packaging, there's no need to resort to sulfur dioxide as a sanitizer," said Cheng at the conference.

Cheng also called upon consumers to change their shopping habits.

"The demand for bleached bamboo is ultimately driving sulfur dioxide use. Consumers should recognize that bamboo and wood products have a natural color, and that paler is not always better," he added.

Consumers' Foundation secretary Huang Yi-teng (黃怡騰) suggested that people use metal skewers when holding barbecues over the Mid-Autumn Festival.

"[Bamboo] skewers are worse than chopsticks because people use so many over the course of a meal," Huang said.

Other items foundation said to contain sulfur dioxide include dessert forks and coffee stirring sticks.

For those who have already bought bamboo skewers to use during Mid-Autumn Festival barbecues, Cheng suggested soaking them thoroughly in water before use to remove some of the chemical residue.

Consumers' Foundation Chairman Li Feng-ao (李鳳翱) had another suggestion for avoiding sulfur dioxide -- take along your own forks and chopsticks whenever you go out to eat.

"In a pinch, they can serve as a self-defense weapon," Lee joked.

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