By MIN LWIN
Malaysia and Singapore have banned certain brands of Burmese ready-made pickled tea that uses a dangerous chemical dye, according to health officials.
The Malaysian Health Ministry conducted test on tea products imported from Burma, after Burma banned more than 100 brands of pickled tea that use Auramine 0, a yellow coloring agent usually used in the textile and animal hide industries, said Bernama, the Malaysia National News Agency.
Nooraini Mohd Othman, the ministry's director of Food Quality and Safety Division, was quoted as saying that the inspections were done after Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority detected Auramine 0 in tea imported from Burma and imposed a ban on certain brands.
"Offenders can be fined up to RM 20,000 or jailed five years or both," said Nooraini Mohd Othman.
The moves by Singapore and Malaysia follow announcements by the Burmese health ministry on March 12 and 19 that 100 brands of ready-made pickled tea leaves were ordered to be taken off the market.
Sun Ni, a Burmese shop owner in Perak, Malaysia, said several dozen Burmese shops in Malaysia stopped selling the ready-made pickled teas two days ago.
However, some shops in Thailand, where hundreds of thousands of Burmese live, are reportedly still selling the ready-made pickled teas.
“We are still exporting Yunzana pickled tea to Thailand,” said a Burmese food dealer in Kawthoung opposite Ranaung, Thailand.
Food safety standards in Burma are low to non-existent, and people generally have a lack of knowledge about health standards.
“In Burma, there are quite a lot of foods which should not be consumed,” said one official with knowledge of the food industry. “If you check light snacks for children, you will find some using dangerous chemicals.”
According to experts, some ready-made food for children contains chemicals dyes, soda and other dangerous chemicals that could affect growth rate.
“The people should be given more information about food ingredients and at the same time, companies should provide more details about their ingredients,” said a nongovernmental agency official who requested anonymity.
A housewife in North Dagon Myothit in Rangoon said, “We didn’t know that the chemical dye in pickled tea could cause health problems. We are going to be more careful about food in the future.”