Mon, Jun 03, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Market vendors hit harder by food scare than retailers

Staff writer, with CNA

Food vendors in traditional and nightmarkets are facing a bigger impact from the widening scare over the use of banned industrial ingredients in food than retail chains, according to operators in the retail sector.

Spokespersons for supermarket chains, including Carrefour and A.Mart, as wells as convenience store chains such as FamilyMart, said in separate interviews over the past few days that the discovery of a banned ingredient and an industry-grade preservative in food products has had a limited impact on their business in the past few weeks.

The chain stores said they can easily and immediately pull problematic products off their shelves. Their stores also often offer consumers several options for each product.

Consumers would keep shopping at their stores despite the food scare, they added.

However, for vendors at traditional markets or night markets, the situation is different because they often sell just one or two types of snacks and beverages, the retail chains said.

Consumers were unnerved by the discovery of maleic acid in popular food products such as rice noodles, hotpot ingredients and tapioca balls, which are used to make pearl milk tea.

The substance was later traced back to a modified starch containing maleic anhydride, a chemical used in the production of food packing materials.

Maleic anhydride is transformed into maleic acid when mixed with water and it use in modified starches is banned in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Malaysian media reports say many stores that sell bubble milk tea drinks and Taiwanese desserts there have been hit by the starch contamination storm from Taiwan.

Coolblog, a popular dessert and beverage brand that has 250 outlets in Malaysia, has recorded a 20 percent drop in sales since the starch scandal broke in Taiwan last month, according to a Coolblog executive.

Last week, Malaysian health authorities announced a ban on the import of 11 Taiwanese food products that were found to contain traces of maleic acid, and urged local businesses to recall all the problematic products.

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