Rice noodle producers caught adding harmful chemicals in southern Vietnam

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Health officials in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap said Saturday that 19 out of 20 samples of rice noodles taken randomly from 15 producers and two traders tested positive for a banned brightener that can damage organs and the neurological system.

An optical brightener used in detergents and cleaners known as tinopal was found in the samples at a rate of 0.33-14 milligrams per kilogram, they said.

Some also contained excessive amounts of preservatives sodium sunfite (Na2SO3) and benzoic acid, they said.

But the violators were let off with a censure since it was their first offense and they cooperated with the inspectors, they added.

Tinopal, when ingested, can damage the liver, kidney, and the neurological system, and increases the risk of cancer.

Health authorities in the nearby city of Can Tho are set to slap a fine of VND30 million (US$1,423) on a food company for using tinopal in the production of rice noodles.

Samples had been taken for testing on July 27, and the owner, Tran Ke Then, confessed to adding the substance.

Ho Chi Minh City food safety authorities earlier this month published a list of three producers whose rice noodles were found to contain tinopal, oxalic acid used in bleaches, and excessive amounts of sodium sunfite.

City-based testing company Sac Ky Hai Dang, which belongs to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, warned that contamination of food is widespread as its tests have revealed.

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