Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Health Ministry suspends import of Taiwanese starch products used in bubble tea

The Health Ministry has suspended the import of 11 Taiwanese starch-based products after Singaporean authorities discovered maleic acid in some tapioca pearls or balls used in the popular “bubble tea” drink.

Food Safety and Quality senior director Noraini Datuk Mohd Othman said the suspension was a precautionary measure after they received early media reports on the issue.

“The Ministry has found that there have been no tapioca balls or tapioca pearls from Taiwanese company Sunright Foods Corporation imported to Malaysia. We are waiting confirmation from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office,” she said in a statement yesterday, adding that the ministry would continue to monitor imported products from Taiwan.

Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority had found maleic acid in 11 starch-based products from Taiwan and has withdrawn them from the market.

It announced this shortly after the Sunright tapioca pearls had been recalled following Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) discovery of maleic acid in them.

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Noraini said besides the tapioca pearls produced by several other companies, some other food products had also been found to contain maleic acid.

“The Health Ministry is also imposing a Hold, Test and Release (Tahan, Uji dan Lepas) test on similar food products from other Taiwanese companies. This is unless the importer can produce a certificate approved by the Taiwan FDA that its products are free of maleic acid,” she said.

She urged all importers, distributors and sellers of the 11 products to recall the products immediately and report to the Food Safety and Quality Division, state health department or district health office for further investigations to be done.

“The industries who use the products are advised to stop using them for the time being,” she said.

Noraini said the use of maleic acid as a food additive was prohibited under the Food Regulations 1985 and high dosages over a long-term period could cause kidney failure.

“For those who have bought the product, it is advisable that you do not consume them and return the product to the seller or throw it away. However, those who have consumed it before this do not need to worry because occasional intake of maleic acid at a low dosage is not dangerous,” she said.

The 11 products are tapioca balls (Sunright Corporation, Grand Chainly Enterprises Co. Ltd), tapioca pearls (Possmei International Co. Ltd, Shang Wang, Ting Long, An Li Si, Taiwan Tapioca Foods Company Ltd), tapioca starch (Hong Kai Foods Co.), Indica Rice Powder (Sunright Foods Corporation) and noodles (Sin Chi Zhi Miang Chang).

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