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Harmful preservatives found in Indonesian instant noodles

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Taipei County Public Health Bureau yesterday announced that cosmetic preservatives were found in the Indonesian instant noodle “Indomie” and ordered all vendors to withdraw the product from the market.

However, Singapore health officials said their tests on the noodles did not show any sign of the substance, insisting that there is no need to de-stock the product. The company behind Indomie has also come forth to denounce the Taiwan findings.

The Public Health Bureau reportedly found butylparaben in the soy sauce packet provided. Officials also discovered traces of benzoic acid in the noodles and seasoning that surpassed the amount deemed safe by health standards.

According to the bureau, butylparaben is often used as an antifungal preservative in cosmetics such as lotion. The chemical is highly caustic and acidic and should never be used as additives in food.

The health bureau said consuming benzoic acid will result in loss of appetite, deterioration in kidney function, nausea and stomachaches, with the worse case scenario resulting in metabolic acidosis — the consequence of which may be coma and death.

Indofood Sukses Makmur, the manufacturer of Indomie, denies that its product contains butylparaben and maintains that the exported noodles abide by the food safety standards set by the nation's Department of Health (DOH).

According to Indofood Sukses Makmur Manager Taufik Wira Atmaja, the company believes that the noodles tested by the Public Health Bureau were not exported by Indofood. Atmaja said the company had been exporting instant noodles for 20 years and is certain that its products are safe for consumption.

The manager said Indofood follows standards and guidelines set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint creation of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Although he denies Indomie has broken any food safety laws, Atmaja said such reports have propelled the company to launch a full investigation of its product and that it will make necessary changes in order to protect Taiwanese and international consumers of Indomie.

While the reaction in Hong Kong mirrors that of Taiwan, with health officials urging vendors to withdrawn Indomie, the Agri Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in Singapore claimed that it conducts periodical tests of the instant noodles and has never found any harmful substances. However, in light of the Taiwan reports, the AVA is retesting the noodles to determine if they are safe to eat.

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