Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lead contamination found in Hanoi food

Food samples recently taken from four major markets in Ha Noi revealed that they were contaminated with lead.

Doctors and experts from the National Institute of Nutrition carried out the research from March 2009 to March 2010 on 12 kinds of common food including water morning glory, rice, pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, oranges, mandarins, tomato, eggs, and powdered and fresh milk. Four samples from each kind of the food were taken from Hao Nam, Hom, Hang Be and Thanh Cong markets.

According to tests on the samples, water morning glory and pork led the list of food for lead contamination with five out of eight samples affected. Meanwhile, five out of 12 samples of rice were affected with lead, and one quarter of shrimp, orange and mandarin samples were contaminated.

According to the Ministry of Health,
the maximum amount of safe lead in fruit is less than 0.1mg per kilo, and less than 0.2mg per kilo of cereals or rice.

Le Thi Hong Hao, deputy director of the National Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene Tests warned, "Having food contaminated with lead, people, especially children, can suffer from kidney failure and brain oedema."

Moreover, she said, lead poison was a serious problem as it took a long time for the human body to recover from lead poisoning.

"It takes seven years to discard lead from the kidney, and 32 years to discard lead from bones," said Hao.

If adults eat food affected with lead, more than 90 per cent of the lead will be absorbed by their bones. If children eat food affected with lead, as many as 64 per cent of the lead will be taken in by the bones, with the remainder soaked up by their brain, blood and kidney.

Lead poisoning symptoms among children include digestive disorders, vomiting and diarrhoea. The children suffer from a lack of appetite and bellyache, she said, with more serious consequences with prolonged exposure.

Children could suffer from convulsions, unconsciousness and even die from severe lead poisoning. Even if successfully treated they were likely to suffer from mental disabilities, cerebral palsy and paralysis, said Hao.

Doctor Ngo Ha Phuong, member of the research team, said that they would propose the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health to strengthen their management of farming manufacturing processes.

"We should have clear regulations for every phase of the food processing process, from breeding through to processing," said Phuong.


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