High levels of aluminum have been found in nearly 44 percent of the food products that the Consumers’ Foundation recently tested, with the group laying the blame on the use of leavening and coloring agents containing aluminum.
Thirty-two food samples were taken from various food sellers, such as mass merchants, department stores, bakeries and traditional markets in May, and none were found to contain maleic acid, the organic compound that had stoked much anxiety and fear among the public in the past few months, the foundation said yesterday.
However, of the 10 samples of brown sugar sponge cake, Cantonese sponge cake, cupcakes and fried dough twist it tested, two had an aluminum content of 100 to 200 parts per million (ppm) and four had 200 to 500ppm.
Two samples of herbal jelly also had an aluminum content of 50 to 100ppm; three of 11 aluminum lake food coloring-based confectioneries had 50 to 100ppm and one had 100 to 200ppm. Of the four baking ingredients tested, one had 200-500ppm of aluminum and another one had more than 5,000ppm, the foundation said.
Nine of the 32 samples had an aluminum content exceeding 100ppm, the group said, adding that since people eat these different types of food several times a day — as regular meals or snacks — they pose a health risk.
A report published by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 2011 set the provisional tolerable weekly intake for aluminum at 2mg per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg-bw).
That means if a person were to eat three cupcakes — weighing 60g in total — with the above-mentioned aluminum content, that person would have consumed 6 to 30mg of aluminum. Consuming another 150mg brown sugar sponge cake would mean an additional 30 to 75mg of aluminum intake.
Based on that sample, a 30kg child can easily consume more than the aluminum intake recommended by the JECFA — let alone the 1mg/kg-bw standard set by the EU, the foundation said.
Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said the foundation has repeatedly urged the government to set a standard for aluminum content in food.
Citing China as an example, which has set a minimum standard of 100ppm for aluminum residues, Chang urged the government to take immediate action on the matter.