Recent surveys reveal food contamination at fresh markets, roadside stalls as well as places where higher standards of cleanliness would be expected such as supermarkets and department stores.
Food processing and food safety has long been an important field at Thai universities.
Thailand has experienced food safety setbacks in the past in its food export sector ranging from avian flu (article #1 and #2) to contamination of fruit exports to Europe (article #1).
These problems were solved and high standards imposed (See articles #1 (21-11-2008), #1 (19-02-2009)).
Today's article reveals that food safety problems still remain to be solved in food for domestic consumption.
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Survey finds harmful bacteria, chemicals rife in popular foods by Sirikul Bunnag
Many popular food items sold in fresh markets, roadside stalls, supermarkets and large department stores have been found to be contaminated with either bacteria or chemicals considered unsafe for consumption.
The findings come from an annual survey conducted by a food safety network made up of Mahidol, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Prince of Songkla universities and the Foundation for Consumers.
Researchers studied food samples between September last year and this year and found the problem to be a major cause for concern.
The overall food safety situation in the country is still worrying despite the government's efforts to improve it over the past decade," said Pornrat Sinchaipanij, a researcher with Mahidol University's Institute of Nutrition.
She pointed out in particular bacterial contamination of school milk.
Up to 25% of pasteurised and 5% of UHT milk samples supplied to schools nationwide had been found to be contaminated with coliform and e-coli bacteria.
The researchers randomly tested food in eight provinces: Bangkok, Samut Songkhram, Phayao, Chiang Mai, Maha Sarakham, Khon Kaen, Songkhla and Satun.
Processed food such as sausages and meatballs contained certain preservatives, which contravenes the Food and Drug Administration's regulation that this kind of food must be free of preservatives
Of the pork and chicken sausage samples tested, 36% and 75% contained benzoic acid. All the meatball samples were found to contain it and all the chicken meatball samples tested positive for benzoic acid and nitrate.
Of all samples of fishballs tested, 75% were found to contain at least one type of preservative.
Accumulation of food preservatives in the body can lead to serious diseases such as cancer, Asst Prof Pornrat said.
The research said the good news from the survey was that none of the tested samples in this food category had borax in them. She attributed this to the government's consistent campaigns to stop the use of this chemical in foods.
In the fruit and vegetables category, 63% of orange samples were found to be contaminated with pesticides. This was followed by long beans (50%), broccoli (44%), cabbages (38%) and Chinese kale (33%).
In the dried food products group, all of the samples of ground dried chillies, 60% of shitake mushrooms, and 64% of dried shrimps contained pesticides, Asst Prof Pornrat said.
In the popular food group, half of the pork samples used in popular Korean grill restaurants tested positive for meat reddening chemicals. All samples of the fermented fish sauce, pla ra, which is a key seasoning ingredient in Northeastern cuisine, were contaminated with bacteria.,
A total of 12% of the noodle samples tested contained fungal aflatoxins exceeding the level considered safe for consumption, she said.
(Source: HEALTH, Survey finds harmful bacteria, chemicals rife in popular foods, 5/10/2010, Sirikul Bunnag, link)
food safety - a scientific discipline that studies the handling, preparation, and storage of food to prevent food from carying illness (See Wikipedia) ความปลอดภัยในเรื่องการอาหารนับแต่กระบวนการการผลิต ขนส่ง การจัดเก็บและจัดจำหน่าย
food processing - the methods and techniques used to make food products from raw food ingredients such as meat and vegetables (See Wikipedia)
contamination (noun) - made dirty and dangerous to use or eat after exposure to dirt, germs, chermicals, or radiation การปนเปื้อนเชื้อแบคทีเรีย
reveals - shows
surveys - a careful examination of something to determine quality or condition of something (example: a survey of buildings in the city to check for earthquake safety)
fresh market - wet market, an open air food market as commonly found throughout Thailand and Asia (See Wikipedia)
stalls - large tables or small shops with an open front from which goods are sold in a public place แผงขายของ
standard - an acceptable level of quality of achievement มาตรฐาน
setbacks - problems that prevent moving forwards to reach goals, problems that hinder progress
impose - force someone to follow a rule or law
domestic - inside the country (here: inside Thailand, not exports)
consumption - using, eating or drinking something การบริโภค
Avian Flu, bird flu - a danger virus transmitted to humans by birds (See Wikipedia) ไข้หวัดนก
rife - very common or frequent มีอยู่ทั่วไป,แพร่หลาย
contaminated (adjective) - made dirty, polluted or poisonous by the addition of a chemical, waste or infection การปนเปื้อนเชื้อแบคทีเรีย
findings - the results or conclusions of an investigation or research
annual - happening once a year ประจำปี
survey - gathering information about what people think about different subjects (public opinion) by asking large numbers of people questions and counting their answers, and then using statistics, graphs, and tables to present results (See Wikipedia)การสำรวจความเห็น
network - a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. เครือข่าย
concern - a worry ความกังวล
major cause for concern - something causes you to worry very much
efforts - people trying to accomplish something, achieve a goal ความพยายาม
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
decade - a period of ten years ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
pasteurized - heating a food to slow the growth of bacteria in food, the procedure for making milk safe to drink (See Wikipedia)
nationwide - throughout a whole country ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
coliform - a type of bacteria in unclean food and water that can cause health problems (See Wikipedia)
bacteria - the very small living things that cause many sicknesses and diseases in humans (See Wikipedia)
e-coli - a bacteria sometimes found in food that can cause serious food poisoning, often the reason behind food recalls (See Wikipedia)
food recall - when the government requests that some food product be taken off the shelves of stores because it is dangerous to eat
randomly - chosen without any particular pattern (to make sure you get a sample, small but representing the larger group)
randomly tested - searched to see if something was true of the larger group by looking at a smaller group (a "random sample")
sample - a small amount or example of something that shows you what all of it is like
random sample - a method in statistics of studying a larger group by only looking at a smaller "randomly" chosen group (See Wikipedia)
processed food - food that has been made into a product sold in stores after "food processing"
sausages - a prepared food made from ground meat, animal fat, salt, spices, and herbs packed in a tube-like casing, orignally used as a food preservation technique (See Wikipedia)
preservatives - a chemical added to prevent the food from going bad (rotting, decaying), food preservatives, food additive (See Wikipedia on food additives)
contravene - goes against the law, breaks the law
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - the government agency that regulates food and medicine (they made sure the food and medicine is safe to use) องค์การอาหารและยา
regulation - an official rule that controls the way that things are done in an industry or activity กฎระเบียบ, ระเบียบข้อบังคับ
benzoic acid - a chemical that has been used as a food preservative (See Wikipedia) which can be dangerous if eaten in large quantities (See Wikipedia)
tested positive - a test to see if something was present (disease in a person, poison or bacteria in food) said that it was present
nitrate - a chemical used to prepare or "cure" food, helps kill bacteria and also produces a special flavour and pink red colour (See Wikipedia on food curing)
accumulation - when something collects or gathers together over time and increases
category - a group of people or things that have similar qualities หมวดหมู่ ประเภท
consistent - doing a task the same way (not changing all the time) อย่างสม่ำเสมอ อย่างเสมอต้นเสมอปลาย
campaigns - a long series of events staged to achieve a goal or to promote something (for example, an "anti-smoking campaign")
pesticides - chemicals that kill insects that can destroy plants
shitake - a mushroom very popular in Asian cooking (See Wikipedia)
grill - to cook something by direct heat, especially under a very hot surface in a cooker ย่าง
fermented - changed chemically through the action of living substances, such as yeast or bacteria หมัก
fermented fish sauce - the "pla Ra" used in Thai papaya salad "som tam"
key - important คนสำคัญ
seasoning - things that are added to food to make it taste better, such as spices or even salt and pepper
ingredient - one of the substances that are combined to make something ส่วนผสม
aflatoxins - a type of poisonous fungus or mold (mycotoxin) that can cause cancer (See Wikipedia)
exceeding - passing a limit, going beyond