MELAKA: School canteen operators in the state have been warned against using formalin – a toxic substance that is used to prevent bodies from rotting – in their food, or face punitive action.
State Health and Anti-Drug Committee chairman Low Chee Leong (pic) said parents have raised concerns over the possibility of school canteens compromising on food safety.
"I will ask the state Health Department to conduct surprise checks and I will recommend for contracts of these canteens to be revoked," he said in an interview here on Thursday (July 11).
Low said the use of the chemical to preserve fish, noodles and other food items poses a serious threat to public health.
He said formalin – a combination of highly toxic formaldehyde gas and water – is mainly for industrial use in textiles, papers, construction, and even to preserve human corpses.
Low said ingestion of this substance is detrimental to internal organs and can cause severe pain with inflammation and ulceration, resulting in necrosis of the mucous membranes.
"Health experts state that the use of this substance will eventually cause kidney failure, liver and lung problems," he said.
Low also said a surprise check conducted as school canteens here recently, found two canteens preparing food in highly unhygienic conditions.
Low said health officers paid special attention to the ingredients used such as cooking oil, chilli powder and other condiments to ensure no toxic preservatives were used.
He said it was upsetting to know that traces of aflatoxin – a potentially deadly mould – were discovered during the check.
Low said food contamination by aflatoxin, a naturally occurring poison, can cause cancer.
"Aflatoxin originates in two species of fungus which survives in humid climates and can seriously damage the liver.
"It also causes fever, anorexia, vomiting and hepatitis, as well as triggering the growth of cancer cells,' he said.
Low said the most poisonous type, aflatoxin-B1, occurs naturally in a wide range of foods, including wheat and rice as well as spices.
He added the Melaka Health Department would hold a talk at Melaka International Trade Center (MITC) here on Saturday (July 13) to create awareness on food safety especially on avoiding alfatoxin contamination.