SINGAPORE: A German study has warned that tapioca pearls found in bubble tea may contain cancer—causing chemicals.
However, authorities said recent checks on pearls in Singapore showed they are safe for consumption.
The study claims the sweet, chewy pearls contain toxic chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).
Chong Kok—Yoong, food scientist at TUV SUD PSB, said: "They are used... to make plastic, floor polish, as well as ballast for florescent lights. Specifically, they can cause cancer and certain immune system malfunction(s), or cause our hormonal system to go haywire."
It is not the first time bubble tea has come under fire for food safety.
Just last year, Singapore suspended a Taiwanese brand of fruit juice concentrates used in bubble tea, for containing the industrial chemical DEHP.
But this time, the Agri—Food and Veterinary Authority said the level of PCBs detected in its recent tests on tapioca pearls here are "well within international food safety limits".
AVA said products that fail its safety standards are not allowed for sale in the market.
For some local chains, business has not been affected.
Chua Keem Long, CEO of Each—A—Cup, said: "AVA called me up and asked me for pearls for testing. I brought them down myself and it’s been five or six weeks already. Nothing happened so I think it should be fine."
Most consumers Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they have not heard of the latest food safety concerns.
"I would continue drinking it because I’m not afraid of this giving me cancer... it’s just milk," said one student.
"Honestly, I don’t think it’ll affect me because everyone dies anyway, so why not enjoy while you can," said another.
Experts said Singapore has a stringent food monitoring system, but there can be loopholes.
Mr Chong said: "There’re just so many of these foods imported, I think we as consumers, besides relying on the authorities to do all the checks, should exercise some caution."
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