Sulfur in Vietnam's bamboo sprout hundreds of times higher than WHO standards

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Samples of fresh and dried bamboo sprouts in the central province of Thanh Hoa contain hundreds of times more sulfur than allowed by the World Health Organization, according to a new local study. 

Test results from the Thanh Hoa Center for Testing and Qualifying Farm Produce and Seafood released Wednesday showed that the samples' sulfur content was hundreds of times higher than the WHO permitted content of 20 milligrams per kilogram.

Pham Ngoc Thom, director of the center at the provincial Farm Produce and Seafood Quality Management Agency, said that although Vietnam had yet to regulate sulfur content in food, the sprouts' excessive sulfur content posed a serious health threat if ingested regularly.

The samples were taken by the provincial Market Management Agency from local sellers and producers, after local authorities discovered several dried bamboo sprout producers using sulfur as an antifungal agent.

Border guards in Quan Son District found 25 tons of fresh bamboo sprouts soaked in sulfur and 80 kilograms of sulfur at a house owned by Lu Van May on September 23.

May, 50, said that he and several traders were producing and selling the sulfur-laden dried bamboo sprouts.

Earlier, a joint team from the provincial environmental police and the local market management agency caught two producers in Tho Xuan District using the same method. The team confiscated a total of 530 kilograms of dried sprouts that had been soaked in sulfur. They also confiscated 118 kilograms of sulfur.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Tran Van Tam, chief of the Thanh Hoa Market Management Agency, said related agencies were working together to inspect bamboo products in 11 districts.

Nguyen Xuan Hong, chief of the agriculture ministry's Plant Protection Department, said estimates on the health risks posed by the sulfur-ridden bamboo sprouts would be ready by the end of next month.

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