Green beans, popular in Taiwan as a cooling summer snack, have been found tainted with high levels of pesticide residue, officials said.
The discovery came to light after New Taipei City-based grocery supplier Sunright Foods Co’s (日正食品) factory in Nantou County sent samples of three different batches of green bean for testing.
The batches, weighing 9,720kg in total, were purchased this year from Tainan-based food seed and grain importer S-Jaeger-Son Co (年冠實業).
The tests showed that the beans contained 0.04 parts per million (ppm) of acephate and 0.17ppm of methamidophos, higher than the maximum permissible level of 0.02ppm for both pesticides. Sunright Foods then notified the Nantou County Government’s Health Bureau of the findings.
Acephate and methamidophos are water-soluble organophosphate insecticides, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital toxicologist Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海) said.
The latter is highly toxic, Yen added, saying that those who ingest large amounts could experience unconsciousness, shock and respiratory failure.
“As for the former, it is categorized by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen despite its relatively low toxicity. Animal research found that the chemical could increase the risk of liver cancer,” Yen said, urging the public to soak green beans in clean water to reduce pesticide residues.
The Tainan City Government Department of Health said its preliminary investigation into the case found that S-Jaeger-Son imported 125 tonnes of green beans from Myanmar on June 16 last year and 120 tonnes on March 13.
Of the imported volume, 52 tonnes remain in storage, while 9,720kg were sold to Sunright Foods and 190 tonnes were purchased by 27 companies, namely 21 pigeon feed manufacturers and six grain stores, the department said.
As S-Jaeger-Son later presented a test report showing that the imported products were free of pesticide residues, the department has decided to confiscate the unsold quantities and ordered a preventive take-down and recall of the products from the market, pending results of a second test.
“About 99 percent of the green beans in the country are imported,” Agriculture and Food Agency deputy director Lin Li-fang (林麗芳) said. “Last year, a total of 224 tonnes of green beans were grown domestically, compared with 19,185 tonnes of imported beans.”
Lin said Myanmar was the nation’s largest importer of green beans, after Indonesia, China and Thailand, adding that just four of the 32 dried bean products tested by the council last year failed to meet the national standards.
Sunright Foods processed the potentially tainted green beans into five types of food products, one of which had been sold through supermarket chain Pxmart.
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