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Formalin found in rice noodles and tofu

File photo of rice noodles from a market in Burma. (Photo: DVB)

Formalin, a chemical linked to cancer and other health problems, has been found in rice noodles and tofu sold at markets in Rangoon, according to a senior government health official.

Khin Saw Hla, the director of Rangoon Division’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the chemical was found in samples of the commonly eaten foodstuffs at markets Insein, Tamwe and Thanlyin townships.

She said an inspection was carried out after markets in Mandalay were found to be selling products contaminated with formalin, which is used in the production of textiles, plastics, paper, and other manufactured goods, but is also sometimes illegally used to preserve edible products such as seafood.

“The use of formalin in tofu was discovered in Mandalay about six months ago, so we decided to check if it was being used here, too,” Khin Saw Hla told DVB on Thursday.

“After we found evidence of it in food here, we informed the affected markets. We are now working in cooperation with city municipal committees to check other markets and find out if it has been used anywhere else,” she added.

The FDA inspectors found that the chemical had been used in rice noodles sold at the Myothit Market in Insein Township and in tofu sold at the Myitta Nyunt Market in Tamwe Township and the Myoma Market in Thanlyin Township.

Dr. Khin Maung Nyo, a retired lecturer from Rangoon University’s Chemistry Department, explained that the long-term consumption of foods containing formalin is closely linked to certain cancers.

“Inhaling it can cause lung cancer, and if you eat contaminated tofu over a long period of time, it can lead to colon cancer. It has been used in tofu for many years as a preservative, to make it last longer,” he said, adding that in the past, it was also sometimes used as an additive in milk.