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Hong Kong’s Consumer Council, the watchdog for consumer products sold in the city, has found metal contaminants and microplastics in salt product samples tested. The safety tests were conducted on a variety of salt products across all price ranges and types, with the majority of salt found to contain these potentially dangerous and health harmful substances.
In a press conference held last Wednesday (April 15), the Consumer Council said that 60% of salt products tested from supermarket shelves in Hong Kong contained heavy metals, with many containing microplastics and harmful additives as well. The prices of the pre-packaged salt products ranged from HK$2.6 (US$0.34) to HK$440 (US$57.80), and included sea salt, rock salt, table salt, iodised salt, lake salt and smoked salt varieties.
In particular, the most expensive Himalayan rock salt product priced at HK$440 per pack was found to contain lead content exceeding international food safety standards set by the United Nations. The body also warned that microplastics were found in samples of sea salt for the first time, and most salt products contained potentially harmful additives as well.
Four brands were detected to contain microplastic content from 114 micrograms per kilogram to as high as 17,200 micrograms per kilogram.
The chairwoman of the watchdog’s research and testing committee, Professor Nora Tam, said that the presence of microplastics in sea salt confirms the severity of marine plastic pollution caused by humans, which is now ending up back into our food chain.
Though the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the health impact of consuming microplastics is still unknown, the body warned that more rigorous research and testing must take place to learn about potentially adverse effects. An alarming German study last year found over 97% of children showed plastic toxicity.
Given the evidence that microplastics are indeed entering Hong Kong’s food chain, Tam urged people to reduce plastic waste as much as possible.
Another product, a smoked salt product, tested positive for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a substance that is widely believed to be carcinogenic. This particular product will be taken off the shelves in Hong Kong, said the watchdog, along with other batches that exceed international safety standards.
This isn’t the first time that harmful substances have been found in food products. Last year, a study revealed that toxic heavy metals that are damaging to brain development in babies were found across common infant foods from major manufacturers. Of all the products, rice-based infant foods were posed the highest risk for neurotoxicity.
The results were particularly alarming in Asia, where rice is regularly consumed in large quantities as a staple in many diets.
Lead image courtesy of Healthline.