Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Disposable chopsticks are loaded with carcinogens.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2005]
Origins: A warning that chemicals or bleaches used in the manufacture of disposable chopsticks posing health hazards first appeared online in January 2005 on a variety of Chinese-language bulletin boards, and by March 2005 the English-language version quoted above began making its way into inboxes everywhere. (The English version cannot properly be termed a translation of those bulletin boards posts in that it is a rewriting of the information they presented rather than a copy of any one of them, or at least not a copy of any post we've so far located. The "Professor Chew" of the
Those bulletin board posts were based on a then year-old China Post article cautioning shoppers that a number of ingestibles being sold in stores had been found to contain excessive remnants of preservatives, bleachers, or coloring agents after food inspections had been increased ahead of the expected boom in the sale of edibles for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year. Those inspections resulted in the Bureau of Health under the Taipei City Government discerning that
Within that news article about non-compliant foodstuffs, in a section about preservative chemicals and dried daylily ("golden needle"), passing mention was made of sulfur dioxide's often being found on disposable wooden or bamboo chopsticks. No details were given regarding how much of this compound was routinely discovered on these utensils or how often such discoveries were made. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), a colorless, water-soluble chemical used for bleaching and preserving foods, fruits, and vegetables, can lead to asthmatic attacks in asthmatics and can cause rashes and abdominal upset in those sensitive to this additive.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does restrict sulfites such as sulfur dioxide in fresh foods to ten parts per million
The FDA estimates that one out of a hundred people is sulfite-sensitive, and that five percent of those who have asthma are at risk of sulfites triggering a breathing problem for them. While adverse reactions among those who are sulfite-sensitive can be severe, even life-threatening, almost all of the population (
Those still worried about potential harm from the sulfur dioxide that might be on the disposable chopsticks they are about to use could follow the advice given for leaching it from dried daylily. China's Department of Health says
Consumers concerned about the environment might choose to follow the
Barbara "don't waribashi, be happy"
Last updated: 30 December 2005
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