Watchdog finds 1 'chao guay' jelly to avoid

Samples of grass jelly in bowls and with tags identifying their brand and where the samples were collected for testing by the Foundation for Consumers are displayed yesterday. The test was aimed at finding out if they are safe to eat. Apichart Jinakul

Most "chao guay" grass jelly products -- a popular dessert -- are safe to eat as they do not contain excessive amounts of preservatives, but with one exception, a consumer watchdog has declared.

The Foundation for Consumers randomly tested 30 brands in the Thai market for benzoic acid and sorbic acid contamination.

Of these, 14 were found to contain neither of the preservatives while 15 showed "safe" levels, said Saree Ongsomwang, the foundation's secretary-general.

By law, every 1kg of food should contain no more than 1,000mg of benzoic and sorbic acid combined, she said.

However, samples of the Arko brand from Bang Pakok trade centre showed it contained up to 1,387mg of the preservatives, Ms Saree said.

The foundation will notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its findings, she added.

The FDA prosecutes producers of unsafe foods with fines under the law governing such matters ranging up to 50,000 baht.

Ms Saree said some chao guay brands carry a label claiming they are free of preservatives when in fact they do contain them but in a safe quantity. Too much of them can irritate the digestive tract and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness and headaches, said Somnuek Ngamlamai, an editor at the Chalat Sue consumer protection magazine.

People who are allergic to the two preservatives often show more serious symptoms, which can include serious liver and kidney tissue damage and convulsions, he said. Their combined levels in jelly, jam and marmalade must not exceed 1,000mg per 1kg of food, he added. The firm was not available for comment.

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