Fearing the tapioca pearls or balls used in drinks may be unsafe for human consumption, bubble tea shops have been sending the products for testing to ensure they are free of maleic acid.
Bubble tea company Ochado’s business director Desmond Chui said the company sent its pearls for testing two weeks ago after hearing that maleic acid had been detected in some tapioca pearls. “We have been providing a copy of the lab results proving that our pearls do not contain maleic acid at our outlets for the past one week whenever customers ask about it”, he said yesterday.
It was reported recently that Malaysia had suspended the import of 11 starch-based products from Taiwan after Singapore authorities found maleic acid in some tapioca pearls or balls used in the popular bubble tea drink.
Health Ministry food safety and quality senior director Noraini Datuk Mohd Othman said the suspension was a precautionary measure initiated after the media highlighted the issue.
Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said on Sunday the products were withdrawn after they were found to contain maleic acid which was not approved in the republic. The use of maleic acid as a food additive is also prohibited in Malaysia under the Food Regulations 1985, as consuming high levels of it can cause kidney damage.
Chatime Malaysia managing director Bryan Loo said that as a franchise with about 1,000 outlets worldwide, their raw products required stringent tests, prior to being exported to countries such as the United States, Australia and Dubai. He said his company sent the items to SGS Taiwan, which is an international inspection, verification, testing and certification company, about two weeks ago.
“We did our testing once the issue was raised in Singapore”, he added.
Both Ochado and Chatime Malaysia have posted the test results and relevant documentation on their Facebook pages to prove that their tapioca pearls are safe for consumption. Gong Cha Malaysia director Billy Koh said they sent their pearls for lab testing on April 30 and received a report on May 9 that the pearls were free from maleic acid.
Another Taiwanese tea and dessert joint, BlackBall, has also released a picture of a lab test result to prove the same on its Facebook page: