CHINA – An analysis by the Hong Kong Consumer Council has found cancer-causing substances in all 60 pre-packaged biscuits tested with a majority displaying misleading nutrition labels.

The biscuits contained the genotoxic carcinogens glycidol or acrylamide or both, which are contaminants produced during processing. These cancer-causing contaminants often emerge when processing certain ingredients, such as palm oil, at high temperatures.

Among the Top 5 biscuits with the most cancer-causing agents were Malaysian favourites such as Hup Seng Special Cream Crackers, Ritz Crackers Cheese Flavoured Sandwich, Jacob’s Original Cream Crackers 93% Wheat Cereal, and Oreo Mini Oreo Original. Some of these are local favourites.

Over 75% (46 products) of samples tested were found to contain 3 different  kinds of carcinogens, namely, glycidol, 3-MCPD, and acrylamide.

While legally, food manufacturing companies are allowed a 20% deviation between the actual nutritional value of the product and the stated value on the packaging, many were found to be blatantly lying.

The Hong Kong Consumer Council noted that 38% (23 products) had nutrient labels claiming values of more than 20% of the actual nutritional content of the biscuit. Three of the 60 samples were also exempted from such labelling rules.

The Hong Kong Consumer Council’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gilly Wong Fung-han, voiced that such misleading labelling is “not very ideal” as consumers, especially patients who have chronic illness and diabetes, rely on these nutrition labels to purchase the product.

“Although we understand that the nutrient contents in products could not be 100 per cent the same as described, the discrepancy should not exceed the regulation,” Gilly Wong, CEO of the Hong Kong Consumer Council.

She noted that while it is understandable that nutrition contents in products cannot be controlled to follow the packaging 100% as described at all times, there is already regulation in place that allows for such flexibility. Hence, the discrepancy should not exceed this regulation.

However, Mondelēz International (Malaysia), parent company of Jacob’s, has countered the claims citing that the company uses best industry practices that are in line with regulations to empower consumers to snack right.

“We know how important it is for consumers to trust the quality and safety of the products that they choose, and this is at the heart of how we make our products. At Mondelēz International, we have a strict food quality assurance and management system for the products we make, and our products are safe to consume. All our products made and sold in Malaysia comply with the local regulations and food safety standards,” said Mondelēz.

Hup Seng, a leading maker of biscuits in Malaysia has also denied the claims. According to the company’s representative, Hup Seng’s special cream crackers manufactured and marketed in Malaysia are fit for human consumption and are in compliance with the local regulations, quality standards and food safety standards.

Alluding to an earlier investigation Malaysia’s Food Safety and Quality Division, said in a statement that Hupseng’s factory premises hold Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Malaysia’s health ministry, KKM, certificates.

The company’s shares have since had a 2.7 per cent fall, the most in two months.

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