The latest survey by the Department of Health (DOH) on the hygiene and ingredients of zongzi (粽子, glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) found some dried radish contained excessive levels of preservatives and some dried shrimps had too much bleaching agent.
With the Dragon Boat Festival approaching on Saturday, the DOH’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently asked local health departments to conduct random spot checks on zongzi sold in the market to ensure food safety during this festive period when zongzi are traditionally eaten.
According to the FDA, among the ingredients examined, 31 items were found to be substandard, including 12 cases of dried shrimp, 17 cases of dried radish, one sauce and one vegetarian zongzi.
The substandard dried shrimps were found to contain residues of the bleaching agent aqueous sulfur dioxide of about 0.23g to 1.06g per kilogram, whereas the sanitary standard only allows less than 0.1g per kilogram, it said yesterday, adding that the benzoic acid residues in the substandard dried radishes ranged from 1.7g to 4.4g per kilogram, which exceeded the permitted standard of 1g per kilogram.
The substandard items have been made public on the Web sites of local health departments and fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 have been imposed on the producers of the substandard ingredients, based on the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), it added.
The FDA encouraged people to choose dried shrimp that are complete and avoid ones with an abnormal red color, and to avoid bamboo leaves with an irritating smell.
Noting that most zongzi contain a lot of calories, starch, fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar, and are low in fiber, the FDA added it is best to only eat one zongzi per day, along with fruit and vegetables.