50% of sausages contain unsafe levels of nitrite linked with cancer – Thai FDA
Half of the sausages sampled in a recent survey contained unsafe levels of nitrite, says Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA revealed that 22 out of 44 sausages sampled contained higher-than-permitted levels of nitrite, a preservative that is linked with bowel cancer.
The FDA began testing sausages after the Ramathibodi Poison Centre reported that 14 children had been hospitalised with methemoglobinemia – a blood disorder caused by ingesting nitrite – after eating sausages that had no FDA approval stamp.
The agency has tested sausages in eight provinces: Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi, Saraburi, Trang, Phayao, Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Kanchanaburi.
“We collected samples from 102 brands of sausage and have tested 44 brands so far,” said FDA deputy secretary-general Weerachai Nolwachai on Sunday.
“Twenty-two samples contained levels of the food preservative nitrite that exceeded the legal limit of 80 milligrams per kilogram. All were sold without an FDA approval stamp on the packaging and came from factories which are not FDA-registered as food manufacturers,” he said.
Sodium nitrite is used to speed up the curing of meat and also to impart an attractive colour. However, nitrite in high concentration can react with the body’s haemoglobin to produce methemoglobin, which reduces the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity in infants and young children.
The FDA has filed police complaints against the manufacturers of the 22 brands of sausage.
“Food manufacturers who add excessive amounts of nitrite face up to two years in jail, a Bt20,000 fine, or both,” he added.
Weerachai advised shoppers to check for the FDA stamp on sausage packaging, as well as labels with the following information: Name and location of manufacturer, manufacturing date, expiration date, ingredients, food additives, and net weight. “Also, avoid buying sausages that are too cheap or from unreliable stores,” he said.
Consumers can file complaints of substandard or unsafe food or drugs via the FDA hotline at 1556.