By The Nation
The Foundation for Consumers, which released the results of the study on Thursday, said many of the products did not show accurate information on their labels. The foundation is urging state agencies to conduct random inspections on provincial food outlets and provide training for the chili paste producers on the proper use of food preservatives.
The study found that levels of benzoic acid in the seven brands exceeded the limits recommended in 2018 by the Public Health Ministry.
Those products found to have exceeded the limit of 500 milligrams of benzoic acid per one kilogram of food were:
1) Damrong, collected from Chiang Mai's Waroros Market (with 890.32 milligrams per kilogram)
2) Lanna, collected from Phrae's Denchai Market (with 1,026.91 milligrams per kilogram)
3) Nicha (under the Je Hong brand), collected from Chiang Mai's Waroros Market (with 1,634.20 milligrams per kilogram)
4) Je Hong, also collected from the Waroros Market (with 1,968.85 milligrams per kilogram)
5) Mae Chamaiporn, collected from Lampang's Aswin Market (with 2,231.82 milligrams per kilogram)
6) Yajai (spicy type), collected from Phrae's Denchai Intersection area (with 3,549.75 milligrams per kilogram)
7) Uma, collected from Phayao's Mae Tam Market (with 5,649.43 milligrams per kilogram)
Only two brands - Oui Kham (under the Khantok brand), collected from Chiang Mai's Waroros Market, and Wannapa, collected from Chiang Rai's Wannapa Shop - didn't contain food preservatives, while eight other brands contained benzoic acid within the recommended limit.
Kaew Kangsadalampai, of the foundation's Chaladsue (Smart Buyer) monthly magazine editorial department, said: “Even though the human body can get rid of food preservatives via the urinary system, if we are exposed too much to food preservatives in everyday meals or from ready-made food products, they can cause liver and kidney problems as these organs have to work hard to get rid of the preservatives."
Monrudee Phoin, the foundation's food science and nutrition academic, noted that the use of as much as 5,649 milligrams of benzoic acid was 11 times higher than the government authority's recommended amount.
"Moreover, the use of food preservatives must appear on the product label to inform the consumers, but only two out of the 17 brand samples stated the use of food preservatives on their labels. The seven brands with limit-exceeding amounts didn't mention it on their labels," said Monrudee, who urged state agencies to enforce the label regulations and for the provincial authorities to conduct random checks on food outlets and at the producers’ plants to ensure product quality and give consumers confidence.
Northern Consumer Network member Poungthong Wongwai said that nam prik noom is a popular souvenir item from the North but, as the study showed many of the samples contained excessive benzoic acid, her group would contact local health authorities to ask them to conduct the sought-for checks and provide the training for producers. This was needed to maintain the Northern region's reputation for quality of food, and especially for those products that are bought as souvenirs.