Formaldehyde-laced foods reemerge in Indonesian markets

Of 55 samples of foods and beverages we tested, 19 kinds of snacks contain formalin and 17 kinds of beverages have rhodium-B,"
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian authorities have again discovered some foods with formalin (formaldehyde) being sold in markets in a number of regions across the country.

The findings were made after a four-year absence of noise since

the corpse-preserving chemical was widely used by food vendors in the country in late 2005 and early 2006.

Authorities in the past few days discovered foods with formalin at traditional markets in such regions as Lampung, Palembang in South Sumatra, Jakarta, Trenggalek in East Java, Banda Aceh in Aceh province and Klaten in Central Java.

In Lampung Selatan district, Lampung province, local Health Department spokesman Ridwan Sani said on Tuesday that foods containing formalin had circulated in a number of traditional markets.

Therefore Ridwan had warned the local community to beware of consuming foods, allegedly containing formalin and borax, a white soluble substance used as an antiseptic.

Ridwan called on the people to make sure before buying the foods, both semi-finished foods and processed foods which were ready for consumption.

He said formaldehyde was a corpse-preserving chemical substance that should not be consumed at certain concentration because it would cause various lethal diseases.

Ridwan said his party would monitor all traditional markets in Lampung Selatan district, although only Kalianda traditional market was suspected to have sold foods containing formalin and borax.

"We want to reiterate to the people to really be careful with foods, suspected to contain the hazardous chemical substances," Ridwan said.

He said the authorities on Monday at Kalianda traditional market discovered that the traders used formalin and borax in wet noodle, tofu, grass jelly, and cendol (doughy rice-flour droplets used in cold drinks).

Meanwhile, authorities in Palembang, South Sumatra, discovered in a raid on Monday that a tofu factory in the city was using formalin as preservative.

South Sumatra Health Department spokesman dr Anton Suwindro said in Palembang on Tuesday that a joint team from the Departments of Health, and Trade and Industry has examined several foodstuffs at Cinde market and concluded that they contained formaldehyde.

"After that we came to a tofu factory and found out the water it used to process the tofu contained hazardous chemical substance," Anton Suwindro said.

He said the authorities conducted sample test repeatedly and found out that the water the factory used to process the tofu did contain formaldehyde.

According to him, formaldehyde was highly toxic to humans, regardless of method of intake because ingestion of as little as 30mL of a solution containing 37 percent of that chemical substance has been reported to cause death.

Water solution of formaldehyde is very corrosive and its ingestion can cause severe injury to upper gastrointestinal tract.

But the owner of the tofu factory denied the use of formaldehyde and admitted that she only added salt and ester of benzene acid into the tofu processing water.

On August 3, 2011, Central Jakarta Agriculture and Livestock Department authorities confiscated 50 kilograms of chicken with formalin during a raid at the markets in Palmerah, Tanahabang, and Grogol.

"We seized the chicken with formalin from a number of traders at the markets in Palmerah, Tanahabang, and Grogol," Central Jakarta Agriculture and Livestock Department spokesman Sarjoni said on Wednesday.

He said the chickens were confiscated after being tested formalin positive.

Meanwhile, West Jakarta Cooperative, Small and Medium Business and Trade Agency spokesperson Febby Prabawati said on Thursday that the confiscated chickens were not suitable for consumption because they contained formaldehyde.

"Seen from the chickens physical condition, I am certain that the traders use formalin," she said, adding that the authorities also seized at least 2 kg of beef which was not fresh enough to be consumed.

In Trenggalek district, East Java, local health authorities on Thursday also found out that scores of snacks and beverages containing formalin and rhodium-B were sold at a number of schools.

"Of 55 samples of foods and beverages we tested, 19 kinds of snacks contain formalin and 17 kinds of beverages have rhodium-B," Trenggalek district government spokesman Yoso Mihardi said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Banda Aceh city government officials in Aceh province late in July also seized hundreds of kilograms of noodle with formalin from a number of local traditional markets.

Banda Aceh Mayor Illiza Sa`aduddin Djamal said that during a raid at five locations the authorities confiscated the noodles because test result indicated that they contained formalin.

"After we tested the noodles, we found that they contained formalin and the we confiscated them," Illiza said in Banda Aceh recently.

Formaldehyde is used for everything from embalming bodies to manufacturing fertilizers and fungus killers but now that hazardous chemical substance is again at the center of massive food scare in Indonesia.

In late 2005 and early 2006 authorities in Indonesia raided food stalls and restaurants after discovering that many were using formalin as preservative.

Formaldehyde`s widespread presence in street foods was first discovered after sampling in 50 markets across Jakarta and Banten late in 2005.

Doctors said that in higher concentrations formaldehyde was capable of causing vomiting, kidney problems, coma and even death but the traders seem to ignore the warning and that the use of such a chemical substance in food is getting out of hand.