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September 23, 2017

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Over 10% of zongzi fillings fail health standards: officials

The China Post news staff--The Taipei City Government Department of Health announced yesterday that out of 102 foods sampled for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, 12 were failed to meet health standards. Dried radish products were especially problematic, just like in the previous two years, with seven out of 13 sampled products falling below standards.

The Department of Health visited various zongzi sellers and discovered that over 10 percent of zongzi, fillings, and bamboo leaves did not pass health standards. Zongzi is also known as rice dumplings, a traditional delicacy made of glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo leaves, and shaped like pyramids. Zongzi is dedicated to a revered historical figure for whom the Dragon Boat Festival is in memory of.

Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美), director of the Department of Health Food and Drug division, said yesterday that 36 zongzi, 51 fillings, 10 bamboo leaves, and five seasoning products were sampled, out of which 10 shrimps, 10 bamboo leaves, seven dried radishes, and five seasoning products were below qualification.

Various chemicals were tested for in the samples, including preservatives for zongzi and borax for alkaline zongzi. Other chemicals were found in zongzi ingredients: optical brightening agents and bleach for shrimps; preservatives, bleach, peroxide, and formaldehyde for dried radish products; coloring agents for egg yolks; optical brightening agents and bleach for scallops; bleach and antiseptic for chestnuts and mushrooms. Preservatives and coloring agents were also found in sauces and bleach in bamboo leaves. In all, 11.8 percent the products tested failed to meet health standards.

The seven dried radish products were sampled to have an overdose of benzoic acid, a preservative; one bamboo leaf and two shrimp products contained too much sulfur dioxide, a bleach residue; a chili sauce product had too much benzoic acid, and one dried radish product had too much benzoic acid and sulfur dioxide.

Chiang pointed out that in 2009, 43.75 percent of dried radish products (seven out of 16 sampled) were failed the inspection; in 2010, 52.63 percent of dried radish products (10 out of 19 sampled) failed to meet health standards, and this year the percentage rose to 54, with seven out of the 13 sampled failing to meet health standards.

Failing Products to Be Destroyed

The products that failed to meet health standards will be pulled out of the market and destroyed, while manufacturers of the products will be fined from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000 by local health departments, according to the Taipei City Government Department of Health.

How to Choose Good Products

Chiang reminded consumers to stay away from dried radish products with irritating smells or that look too bleached, and also to soak them in hot water prior to cooking them to reduce the preservative residues.

Regarding zongzi and its fillings, Chiang suggested avoiding bamboo leaves that are too green or smell like sulfur, and also zongzi wrapped in ripped leaves or has fillings sticking out. Ingredients that are unnaturally brightly colored and smell funny should be avoided as well.

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