Monday, July 1, 2013

Poison in our Foods : Maleic Acid

In June 2013, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration found maleic acid in tapioca pearls produced by Taiwanese company Sunright Foods Corporation.   Soon afterwards, Singapore’s Agri-food and Veterinary Authority too found maleic acid in 11 starch-based products from Taiwan.  Malaysian Health Ministry followed suit by suspending the import of the 11 products.

Tapioca pearls are used in the popular bubble tea drink ( 珍珠奶茶 ), which too originated from Taiwan.

Maleic acid  顺丁烯二酸 (马来酸) is not an approved additive used in manufacturing food products.  Long term consumption of high levels of maleic acid may caused kidney damage.  However, occasional intake of maleic acid at a low dosage is not dangerous.  Industrial maleic acid can cause skin irritation and sensitization, as well as severe eye damage.

Maleic acid is a colourless crystalline, soluble in water and moderately toxic.  It is used as a detergent in surface cleaning, sizing agents in textile industry, photographical chemicals for quite-photo processing, making maleate salts in pharmaceutical industry, dying auxiliary, as an oil and fat preservative, and for hot melt adhesives.  In addition, it is also used to manufacture polyester resins, pesticides, tartaric acid, succinic acid, and DL-malic acid.