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Monday, August 15, 2016, 17:01

'Cancer-causing' element found in HK soy sauces

By Dara Wang

'Cancer-causing' element found in HK soy sauces
An exhibitioner pours soy sauce on a sampler of ramen at the Japanese Food Exhibition in Hong Kong on March 2, 2012. (Photo/AFP)
HONG KONG – A possible cancer-causing substance was found in 11 different soy sauces in Hong Kong, the city’s consumer rights watchdog said on Monday in its monthly report on the quality of various products sold in the city.

The Consumer Council tested 40 soy sauce and seasoning samples, discovering that 11 of those contain 4-methylimidazole. This chemical compound may cause cancer as classified by the World Health Organization.

Manufacturers add caramel colorings to soy sauces to enhance the color intensity, while two colorings contain the substance that may cause cancer. So far, no relevant regulatory requirement has been set in Hong Kong.

Yu Pin King’s Premium Dark Soy Sauce contains most of this possible cancer-causing substance, according to the council’s report. Intake of only half a teaspoon of this soy sauce exceeds the maximum of 29 microgram per day, a standard set by the state of California in the US.

Chief Executive of Consumer Council Gilly Wong Fung-han urged the government to set regulations and put warning labels on product packaging if they contain possible disease-causing substances.

She said consumers deserve the right to know the ingredient and additive details of food products, especially for something like soy sauce that people consume every day.

Chairman of the council’s Research and Testing Committee Wong Kam-fai suggested people would do better to choose naturally brewed soy sauce products with soy bean and wheat and pay attention to colorants and other additives used.

The report also suggested that 39 out of 40 soy sauces were found to contain worrying levels of 2,600 to 9,970 milligrams of sodium.

The council said intake of 20 milliliters of the soy source with the most sodium exceeded the suggested limit.

The council also found that eight soy sauces contain heavy metals, but the amount is far below the limit under the Chinese mainland standard.

Food and Health Bureau said they will follow the investigation of soy sauces mentioned in the council’s report. They also noted that consuming 4-methylimidazole contained in colorings will not cause health problems according to Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.

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