Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FDA says ‘high-risk’ food items have harmful chemical DEHP

With school opening in a few days, families shopping for snacks and “baon” for students should read food labels carefully.

The Food and Drug Authority (FDA) issued an alert for “high-risk” food products from Taiwan that contain the potentially harmful chemical Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).

Supermarkets and retail stores will be asked to temporarily remove Taiwan-made “sports drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks”—until tests are conducted to determine if they are safe for public consumption, said the FDA advisory.

No brand names were cited since the government agency is still awaiting for a list of names from FDA counterparts in Taiwan.

In Manila, watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition went out and bought 30 bottles of various Taiwan-made beverages from grocery stores and supermarkets and posted a photo of the products in their blog.

The coalition urged the FDA to go beyond “monitoring” in the wake of the food-safety scandal in Taiwan, and to order all vendors to immediately stop selling until tests prove the products are DEHP-free and safe for human consumption.

The Taiwanese government last week ordered a massive recall of six categories of beverage and food products suspected of being tainted with DEHP—fruit juices, sports drinks, teas, fruit jams and preserves, food powders, and food or food supplement tablets.

As a further precautionary step, the Taiwanese government has likewise ordered schools to remove such products from canteens, candy shops and vending machines until they are proven safe, the EcoWaste Coalition said. In Manila, FDA Deputy Director Nazarita Tacandong said they have started collecting samples of juices for laboratory testing.

In its May 27 advisory, FDA Acting Director Suzette H. Lazo described DEHP as a substance used as a “plasticizer” in the making of medical devices like intravenous bags and tubing, blood bags and infusion tubing, and nasogastric tubes. High doses or prolonged exposure can have harmful effects.

“Children are especially prone to the harmful effects of high doses of DEHP or to repeated exposure, which can lead to testicular effects, fertility problems and toxicity to kidneys,” said Lazo.

Taiwanese authorities discovered that DEHP had been illegally added to a food product raw material known as “cloudy agent” used for emulsification. The Taiwan government informed the Department of Health that the material may have been imported to the Philippines by a company. Authorities are trying to trace the local counterpart of this company.

Among the products pulled out from store shelves in Taiwan are energy drinks, bottled tea and juices, fruit jam, and fruit jelly with ingredients made by Yu Shen Chemical Company.

The Taiwan FDA website identified the contaminated products as:
-Nature House Lactic Acid Bacteria (apple vinegar-flavored lactic acid powder) produced by King Car Group;
-Skinny Dietary Drinks by Chang Gung Biotechnology Corp.;
-Taiwan Sugar Ginger Clam Tablets by Taiwan Sugar Corporation; and,
-Dongli Sports Drinks and Dongli Lemon Sports Drinks.

As of May 27, the Taiwan FDA reported that “up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Also, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves,” according to EcoWaste Coalition, an environment watchdog.

The group said that to date, close to 500 product items manufactured by 155 Taiwanese food and drink companies have been found to contain DEHP.


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