By ARKAR MOE
Burma’s Ministry of Health has banned the sale of 37 brands of shrimp paste, warning that they contain a dangerous chemical dye.
Announcements carried by state-run media on Friday identified the chemical as Rhodamine B, which the Burmese language newspaper Myanma Alin said is used to dye cotton, wool, silk, paper and leather. The newspaper said it could cause ulcers, nervous disorders or even cancer.
Shrimp paste is widely used in Burmese cooking. The dye is added to give it an attractive color, according to a Health Ministry official.
“My shop sells it like hot cakes,” said a grocery store owner in Rangoon’s North Dagon Township. “Many people, especially the poor, rely on it as their main dish.”
The media announcement warned that further use of Rhodamine B in the production of shrimp paste would be punished under a provision of the National Food Law 28 (A), carrying a possible three year prison sentence, a fine of 30,000 kyat (US $28) or both.
One dealer in Rangoon’s Thiri Mingalar market told The Irrawaddy some shops were continuing to sell the banned shrimp paste secretly.
A 28-year-old carpenter who lives in Rangoon’s Hlaing Thayar said he ate shrimp paste because he couldn’t afford other food.
The shrimp paste ban follows a similar halt in March to the sale of about 100 brands of pickled tea leaf, contaminated by chemical dye.