With people gearing up for next month’s Mid-Autumn Festival, the Taipei City Government Department of Health yesterday released the results of recent random testing of mooncakes in which only one product was found to contain prohibited substances.
Also known as the Mooncake Festival, the holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar with mooncakes, pomelos and barbecue parties. It falls on Sept. 8 this year.
In an effort to ensure food safety during the holiday, the department in June looked for preservatives and coloring agents in 47 mooncake products and 10 filling ingredients purchased from food manufacturers and convenience stores.
“Only the Cantonese-style mooncake manufactured by the Taipei-based Malaya Restaurant (馬來亞餐廳) tested positive for preservatives, containing 0.03 grams per kilogram [g/kg] of dehydroacetic acid,” department Food and Drug Office Director Chiu Hsiu-yi (邱秀儀) told a press conference.
Chiu said dehydroacetic acid is a tasteless and odorless white powder that is mostly used in foods to prevent spoilage caused by microorganisms or fungi to reduce consumers’ risk of food poisoning.
The preservative is allowed only in cheese and butter in the nation at a level below 0.5g/kg, Chiu said.
“Research has shown that long-term and excessive consumption of the substance could lead to a lack of appetite, weight loss and impaired functions of the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system,” Chiu said.
Lin Yi-fen (林宜芬), director of the Diet and Nutrition Department of the Taipei City Hospital’s Heping Fuyou Branch, urged people to cut mooncakes into smaller servings and share them with a number of friends to avoid excessive holiday weight gain.
“A single mooncake could have as many as 800 calories, which is nearly as much as three bowls of rice. Eating too many mooncakes could also lead to abdominal bloating and raise blood sugar levels,” Lin said, adding that people with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels should especially refrain from overindulgence in the traditional pastry.
Lin added that people should eat the dessert with unsweetened tea and also avoid eating an entire pomelo in one sitting.
“Pomelo may contain high levels of vitamin C, but it also has a lot of calories. Excessive consumption of the fruit could cause indigestion and an upset stomach,” she added.
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