According to the Thai Financial Post, the country's Ministry of Public Health has been urging people to thoroughly wash mushrooms before cooking them after finding that the food item is frequently soaked in formaldehyde before reaching consumers.
Dr. Praphon Angtrakun, Deputy Secretary-General of the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA), revealed this past week that three percent of the 15,000 fresh food items his agency randomly tests are tainted with formaldehyde, and that the rate of detection is especially high in seafood. As for vegetable produce, straw mushrooms and termite mushrooms are of special concern.
Praphon also added that the easiest way to detect formaldehyde-laced produce is if vegetables and other foodstuff don’t dry out or become shriveled after being put on display without the addition of moisture. With meat, identification can be made if the meat does not dry out after being put in the sun, a food preparation practice in some areas.
Reports indicate that formaldehyde is being used by mushroom growers in some countries to keep a species of fruit fly (Drosophila) from invading the mushrooms.
A 2003 U.S. Department of Agriculture study on formaldehyde levels in raw shiitake mushrooms from China and the U.K. found that the levels observed were “the result of natural production” by this type of mushroom. However, cooking the mushrooms for at least six minutes caused a “significant reduction” in the formaldehyde, the study noted, leaving levels that were “unlikely to pose an appreciable risk to human health.”
Formaldehyde is colorless, flammable and strong-smelling chemical that is used as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant and preservative in household products and mortuaries and medical labs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers formaldehyde to be a probable human carcinogen.
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