With the Mid-Autumn Festival nearly upon us, bakery shelves are heaving with a vast array of appetizing mooncakes in a mind-boggling variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. For many Taiwanese gourmands, the venerable egg yolk pastry is a special favorite. However, in the past some unscrupulous businesses were discovered to have added the harmful industrial dye Sudan Red G to their egg yolk pastries to give the salty egg yolks a rosy-red luster. Sudan Red G was cassified as a toxic chemical by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in July 2018. The administration says it has been carrying out inspections since the ban but has not discovered any illegal use of Sudan Red G. However, with increased demand for egg yolk pastries during the festive season, the administration says it will intensify inspection work during the period.
In the past, some egg farms would add the carcinogenic substance to duck feed in order to give their salted duck eggs a deep color and luster. In 2017, the illegal use of Sudan Red G was detected in an online retailer’s salted egg yolk mooncakes. The poultry farm which supplied the egg yolks was required to cull its duck population and destroy its stock of duck eggs. Fraud charges were also brought against the farm. The following year, the EPA classified Sudan Red G as a category 4 toxic chemical.
Sudan Red G is in fact an umbrella term for a series of related chemical dyes that sound similar but have different molecular structures, chiefly Sudan Red I, II, III and IV, and Sudan Red 7B and G. Because the molecular structure of the Sudan Red G dye is easily soluble in oils, it is often used in industrial settings such as colorant in furniture paint, shoe polish, floor wax, car wax and oils to give products a rich color and luster.
Photo: Liberty Times 照片：自由時報
Sudan Red G’s unique properties — inexpensive, easy-to-obtain, stable, and color-fade resistant — mean that it often crops up in food safety incidents. In addition to salted egg yolks, outside of Taiwan Sudan Red G has been found to have been added to chilli sauce and chilli powder; however, the group of dyes with which Sudan Red G shares a common molecular structure are listed as category 3 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
EPC Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau Director-General Hsieh Yein-rui advises consumers not to choose food products that appear overly vivid and bright, or that look unatural. Hsieh adds that the nutritional value of egg yolks is the same whether they are yellow or red in color, and warns that customers who select egg-containing products on the basis of their bright luster may well be consuming adulterated egg yolks.
(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)
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