Toxic dye found in melon seeds, chili powder nationwide

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At least 80 percent of melon seeds and chili powder samples taken across Vietnam have tested positive for Rhodamine B, a harmful dye suspected of being carcinogenic, an food analysis expert said Monday.

Tests on 50 food samples taken by the Central Food Testing Institute over last month and those sent by Hue, Hanoi and several northern provinces showed that 80-100 percent of melon seeds and chili powder, depending on where the samples came from, were contaminated with the chemical, said Le Thi Hong Hao, deputy head of the institute.

Some of the samples were taken from unlabeled batches, he said.

Hao said food product can be contaminated with a little Rhodamine B through fertilizer or pesticide use, or much more if people deliberately dyed it.

Rhodamine B, a luminescent industrial dye, is banned as a food additive in Vietnam as it hardly decomposes and damages the liver and kidney after a long time, she said, adding it was not certain yet if it caused cancer.

“Natural colorings are less durable but more expensive, thus businesses choose industrial dyes although they were banned long ago.”

Gaudy food products, especially those that have reddish brown colors, are likely to be the ones highly contaminated with Rhodamine B, Hao said.

The institute is going to take more samples from food products popular during Tet season and test them for not only Rhodamine B but all industrial dyes, she added.

Health officials in Binh Dinh and Thua Thien Hue Province in central region last week found Rhodamine B in chili powder at several local processing facilities.

Source: Tuoi Tre

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