Taiwan noodles pulled over toxic acid

THREE noodle products from Taiwan have been recalled here after being found to contain maleic acid - an unapproved additive which can cause kidney damage if consumed in large amounts over the long term.

Guan Miao Hand Pulled Noodle, Guan Miao Sliced Noodle, and Guan Miao Noodle - which all come under the Sun Chi brand - have been added to a list of 18 affected products.

The items have been withdrawn from sale, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), and consumers who have bought the noodles should not eat them and should either return them to the retailer or discard them.

Sun Chi, however, denies that its products are tainted.

In comments posted on the AVA's Facebook page, it said tests done by Taiwanese authorities have shown its products to be free of maleic acid. It also requested that the AVA reveal its testing methods.

The authority responded by saying its testing methods differ from Taiwan's in that they are "more sensitive and hence can detect maleic acid at very low levels". The AVA has been liaising with Taiwanese authorities on the issue.

Maleic acid is not normally used in manufacturing food products. It is a by-product from the use of industrial-grade starch, which increases the "chewiness" of food.

Occasionally taking maleic acid at the levels currently being detected does not pose any significant health risk, but consuming high levels of it over the long-term can cause kidney damage, the AVA said.

Other foods on the list of contaminated products include Hong tapioca starch, Redman black tapioca pearl, Sun Right indica rice powder, and Long Kow vegetarian instant rice noodle.

An AVA spokesman said it is monitoring the situation closely and is continuing its surveillance of products from Taiwan.