JUDGING by the huge demand for dumplings each time the Dumpling Festival comes around, it is evident that even in this modern age, we are still very much in touch with tradition.
The festival, which is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month annually, pays respect to the court official and poet Qu Yuan. While there are many versions of the story, the festival aims to commemorate the sacrifice of the patriotic Qu Yuan, who stood up to the corrupt government of the Chu kingdom in ancient China but was wrongfully charged with treason and dismissed. Upon hearing that the Chu kingdom had been defeated by the Qin kingdom, Qu Yuan, in despair, drowned himself in a river.
DANGER OF BORIC ACID IN BAK CHANG
Those celebrating the dumpling festival tomorrow have been advised to make their own bak chang.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said that a recent test by CAP on 18 samples of bak chang bought in markets in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh found boric acid in all of them.
The quantity ranged from 4.86 ppm to 1,695ppm (parts per million).
Mohd Idris said bak chang makers used boric acid to prevent the glutinous rice from sticking to the bamboo leaf wrappers.
“Boric acid is toxic. Even when consumed in small amounts, it can lead to poisoning, gastrointestinal illness, kidney damage and loss of appetite,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Mohamed Idris said he was disappointed that the Health Ministry had failed to curb the use of this acid in food in spite of it being prohibited under the Food Act 1983.
“This issue was first brought up by CAP 24 years ago and until today, we still find boric acid in food products,” he said.
He said their tests in the past had found boric acid in food such as lor mai kai (glutinous rice dim sum) and nyonya kuih.
The association urged the Health Ministry to strictly enforce the Food Act and license the sale of boric acid in the market.
“Its sales should be restricted by classifying it as a poison so that it is only made available to medical practitioners and certain non-food users,” he said.