The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday said that a quarter of the yellow dried tofu it tested contained industrial dye.
Big yellow dried tofu is a popular daily fare, as well as a choice offering to gods and ancestors during the Ghost Festival, which falls on Aug. 30 this year. However, consumers should be aware that the tofu’s yellow color is the result of artificial food coloring, the foundation said, with some containing excessive levels or banned substances.
Several types of artificial food colorings are allowed in Taiwan, as listed in the Standards for Specification, Scope, Application and Limitation of Food Additives.
The foundation’s tests of 20 pieces of yellow dried tofu bought at traditional markets in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市) in June showed that all contained artificial dyes: 15 used Yellow No. 4, two used Yellow No. 5, and 18 added Red No. 6. All are permitted food coloring substances, foundation chairperson Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said.
However, five contained an illegal dye — metanil yellow, which is used for industrial purposes, Su added.
Lee Cherh-yu (李哲瑜), an associate professor at Taipei Chengshih University of Science and Technology’s food and beverage management department, said metanil yellow is not a food additive and consumption of the substance can damage the liver.
One of the tofu samples in the survey also contained hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly used as a disinfectant and is allowed in the manufacturing process of minced fish, meat products and other foods, excluding flour and flour products, the foundation said.
However, regulations stipulate that food should not contain residues of hydrogen peroxide.
The survey also found benzoic acid in nine of the dried tofu tested, and four of them contained excessive levels of the preservative.
Artificial food coloring can cause itching, edema or palpitations for people who are sensitive to these substances, Su said.
The foundation encourages consumers to reduce their intake of food products with artificial food dye, because research shows that a high intake of such substances might cause attention deficit disorder in children, Su said.
The foundation also urged manufacturers to replace artificial food colorings with natural dyes, such as gardenia jasminoides or curcumin from turmeric plants.