Vietnamese foods bleached with kidney stone culprit

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Noodle and rice product samples in Vietnam have tested positive for oxalic acid, which can cause kidney failure by helping form kidney stones, experts said Thursday.

Professor Chu Pham Ngoc Son, vice chairman of of Ho Chi Minh City Union of Science and Technology Associations and technical adviser to examination company Sac Ky Hai Dang, said tests between late June until December 10 found 42 percent of the 873 samples had excessive content of the compound.

Oxalic acid is used as a bleach.

There were 112 contaminated samples out of 369 fresh noodle batches tested while 120 of 353 rice flour samples came back positive. All 62 samples of packed instant noodles contained the harmful substance.

The results were announced at a conference on oxalic acid safety held by the Ho Chi Minh City Public Health Association.

Son said the acid is contained naturally in many kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables and seeds but most of it is washed away or gone via processing or cooking by the time the produce is eaten. A high content of the acid was found in fresh bamboo shoot samples but a much lower content in fermented shoots.

The detected acid was deliberately added by producers and can be harmful to human health, he said.

Le Truong Giang, chairman of the city public health association, said the acid can be used in industrial production but is not allowed in foods.

Giang said the acid can form salt compounds in the body by combining with metallic elements such as calcium, magnesium, iron and kalium, causing a deficiency of the elements. Calcium oxalate is the main component of kidney stones.

Oxalic acid can also cause joint pain due to similar formation in the joints.

Son suggested that authorities regulate the acid content in food products so that producers adding it for profit can be punished.

The company has in the past found many food products in Vietnam to have been bleached and brightened by optical brighteners used in detergents and cleaners known commercially as tinopal, which can damage the liver, kidney and the neurological system when digested.

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