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Bubble teas pose potential health threat

POPULAR bubble tea could be dangerous to your health as cheap raw materials - milk powder, starch balls and sweeteners - used by some vendors may contain banned food additives including poisonous plastic and arsenic, industry insiders told today's Shanghai Evening News.

The milk powder makes the tea smell better than fresh milk and the starch balls are to make the drinks more fun, a milk tea vendor told the newspaper.

The milk powder smells better because they add a chemical called vegetable cream powder, which could contain poisonous arsenic, the vendor said. Consumption of the cream powder over a long period could increase the danger of developing cardiovascular diseases and cancer as well as affect brain development in toddlers, the report said.

Shanghai food and drug officials said most food additives in Shanghai are safe to consume. But they told the newspaper it was probable that some vendors use low quality additives to increase profits. Since there is no rule or state standards for bubble tea in China, the officials could only apply normal food product standards on the tea products.

The major ingredient of the milk powder is also a trans fat, the vendor said. Daily consumption of 500 milliliters of milk tea with this trans fat could exceed the health limit and long time consumption of the tea could lead to cardiovascular diseases, the vendor added.

The starch balls are also harmful to health, according to the vendor.

Although starch is claimed to be the main ingredient suppliers add wheat gluten, a plastic, to make the balls chewier. Plastic is a banned food additive.

The sweetener is no better, according to the vendor.

It is added with chemicals such as sodium sulfate, which is used as a washing powder and banned as a food additive. Long time consumption of the chemicals could be poisonous.

At a wholesale market on Renmin Road, industry insiders told the newspaper that the teas using cheap raw materials could only cost 0.5 yuan (7.3 US cents) a cup to make. The tea sells for 3 yuan to 6 yuan across the city.

The best-selling milk powder sells for 200 yuan per 50 kilograms in the market, which can be used to make 400 cups of tea, according to wholesalers.

The starch balls sell for 10 yuan per 2 kilograms, capable of making 100 cups of tea.


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