Mandalay FDA lauds clampdown on food additives
THE Food and Drug Administration is attributing a decrease in potentially toxic food additives to bi-weekly tests for chemical dyes in Mandalay markets.
In February, the FDA vowed to ensure inedible chemical dyes and additives meant for textiles and cleaning supplies stay out of food traded in the markets. Tests conducted last year revealed food products, especially noodles and fish paste, contained dangerous substances, such as the toxic chemicals borax and formalin.
In May, the FDA announced as part of its 100-day plan that it would be conducting twice-weekly market tests with the goal of eliminating harmful additives. As a first step in stamping out the practice, consumers were educated about the risks and vendors were warned they could face fines.
“Starting on May 5, we bought foodstuffs to test for chemical dye from 44 markets in Mandalay including Zay Cho,” said U Kyaw Kyaw, deputy director of the FDA in Mandalay. “According to the results of our tests, we can see chemical dye is becoming less common. If the tests continue, the markets will become clear of chemical dyes.”
To begin with, the Mandalay FDA officials have concentrated on testing fish and shrimp paste.
“At first, we found that over 15 percent of the tested market products contained chemical dye,” said U Kyaw Kyaw. “But after ongoing education and tests, we found that now only about 5pc of the products contain chemical dyes.”
“Previously, formalin was put into bean curd as a preservative, but we are not seeing it being used today. Other food stuffs that contain dyes and additives include chilli powder, bamboo shoots, roasted lablab beans and jalebi snacks,” he said.
The most common prohibited chemicals found in the examined foodstuffs include Orange II, a dye often used for garments, and Rhodamine B, a dye and suspected carcinogen. Other inedible Deputy director FDA chemicals found in the testing include dyes Sudan III and Auramine O.
Head of Mandalay City Development Committee’s market department U Zayar Nyein said awareness campaigns have so far been conducted in 18 of the 44 markets.
Food producers who continue to put harmful additives in the food will be named and shamed, he added, with the brands posted for public information.
In February, the Mandalay FDA released a list of 32 food brands that should not be consumed due to safety concerns. Companies found to be using textile dyes can be punished under section 28(a) of the National Food Law, which can result in three years’ imprisonment, a K30,000 fine or both.
“The sellers say they are also eager to become clear of chemical dye,” said U Zayar Nyein.
Mandalay vendors however have complained that the testing process is not entirely fair, as they have faced losses over goods that were confiscated with no reimbursement.
“If they want foodstuffs to be chemical dye-free, then they need to offer technical support to food producers in the industry. We are just trying to sell foodstuffs conveniently,” a food vendor who asked not to be named said.
– Translation by Khine Thazin Han
‘After ongoing education and tests, we found that now only about 5pc of the products contain chemical dyes.’
U Kyaw Kyaw