Consumer group warns of packaged bread perils

Five of 14 samples found with excess preservatives

A consumer protection group has warned that nearly one-third of pre-packaged breads and pastries in supermarkets contain preservative agents that exceed food standard limits.

Patchara Klaewkla, of the Consumer Protection Foundation, said sandwich breads, croissants and sweet rolls available in some supermarkets were found to contain one or more preservatives that exceed accepted safe levels.

The warning is based on the recent findings released by Chalard Sue (Smart Buyers) magazine which took 14 random samples of bread and bakery products for testing for sorbic acid, benzoic acid and propionic acid, which are widely used for food preservation.

Based on the Public Health Ministry's 2004 announcement on food additives and the Codex General Standard for Food Additives, the limits for sorbic acid and benzoic acid combined are 1000 milligrammes per kilogramme.

There is no limit for propionic acid.

Of the 14 samples taken from the supermarkets, only eight were labelled as containing preservative agents. One claimed to have no preservatives and the labels of the other five mentioned noting about preservatives.

Mr Patchara said five of the 14 samples were found to have excessive amounts of preservative agents.

They are the 80-gramme red-bean bun manufactured by Tesco the Bakery; the 50g taro bun made by A-Plus; the 95g sausage roll by Baker Land; the 170g Vanilla roll by Sun Merry; and the 700g sandwich bread by Tesco.

The test was run at a laboratory operated by Regional Medical Sciences Centre 7 in Ubon Ratchathani.

Mr Patchara said authorities should consider suspending the licences of companies which failed the standard for breaking the food control law.

Thassanee Nan-udorn, chief of Chalard Sue's product safety test centre, said the three preservatives are used against micro-organisms. Benzoic acid is considered the most harmful among them. She said even though the body can get rid of these agents, consuming them more than the acceptable daily intake over a long period can cause kidney damage. " [The preservatives] can build up in the system. They can cause nausea, vomiting and stomach aches," she said. "In the long run, it can lead to kidney disease."

Consumers should choose baked goods that are made fresh rather than ones processed in a factory, she said. Buying products that note they are made without preservatives will also reduce the risk, she said.

A quality control manager at C&W Interfoods Plc, which makes A-Plus bread, said their product does not contain benzoic acid, only propionic acid. The manager, who declined to be named, said that the amount of sorbic acid does not exceed the limit while the maximum level of propionic acid is not defined.

Banyat Kamnoonwat, assistant vice-president of CP All Plc, which operates 7-Eleven stores, said the company will immediately inform its quality control department to inspect the products.

Tesco Lotus said it adhered to food safety standards.

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Writer: Penchan Charoensuthipan & Pitsinee Jitpleecheep