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Steamed warning so much food for thought

22 May 2009 1,243 views No Comment

Lovers of steamed bread and buns could be putting their health and that of future generations at risk by tucking into their favorite foods.
The Centre for Food Safety said yesterday about 97 percent of 256 food samples it tested, including bread, steamed buns, confectionery and ready-to- eat jellyfish, contained aluminum. That can cause growth retardation, reproduction defects or premature births in those exposed to it over time.

CFS community medicine consultant Ho Yuk- yin played down the findings, saying most Hongkongers are safe from overexposure to aluminum. But he warned that those who regularly consume food carrying aluminum are at a higher risk.

However, avoiding aluminum could be a problem. The provisional tolerable weekly intake level for aluminum consumption is one milligram per kilogram body weight, according to the World Health Organization guidelines.

Samples of prepared jellyfish contained 1,200 milligrams per kilogram. Steamed bread/buns/cake had aluminum levels reading 100 to 320mg/kg. Powder mix for baking or frying food contained an average of 2,600mg/kg while others such as beverage mix, nondairy creamer, salt and sugar contained between 1mg/kg and 110mg/kg.

An adult weighing 60 kilograms could reach the tolerable intake level by eating a piece of cake and a muffin once a week.

Medicinal products such as antacids can increase people’s aluminum intake by 10 to 100 times.

Sixty percent of the average person’s exposure to aluminum comes from eating steamed bread, buns and cakes, 23 percent from bakery products and 10 percent from jellyfish, the center noted.

Infants, children, adolescents and pregnant women have to pay special attention, but the risk is relatively lower for the elderly.

“To reduce the risk, the consumption of aluminum should be adjusted according to a person’s weight,” Ho said. Consumers should also maintain a balanced diet and check labels on food packages.

Aluminum is a metal that is naturally present in food and is widely used in cooking utensils and foil. It also usually used in food additives, such as baking powder, raising agents and coloring.

Currently, Hong Kong has no standard regulating the aluminum level in food, but the center is studying the possibility of introducing international standards.

The center will advise food producers to reduce using additives containing aluminum by developing new agents or replacing them with alternatives, as well as putting accurate information on food labels.

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