Consumer watchdog finds all 27 samples of dried goji berries it tested contain heavy metals
The Consumer Council said Monday that all 27 samples of dried goji berries it tested were detected with different types of heavy metals, with two samples found with lead concentration close to the maximum level permitted under relevant Hong Kong regulations.
The watchdog said it collected 27 dried goji berry samples from the market in August and
September last year, of which 23 were prepackaged and the remaining 4 nonprepackaged.
Test results showed that all samples were detected with different types of heavy metals, with 21 samples found to contain lead at levels ranging from 0.018mg to 0.29mg per kg.
Of the samples containing lead, two samples had detected amounts of 0.284mg and 0.29mg per kg respectively, which, after conversion, were close to the upper limit set in the Hong Kong Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations.
The watchdog said studies have shown that chronic dietary intake of lead through the diet can adversely affect the neurodevelopment and mental development of children, as well as the systolic blood pressure of adults.
The council has since referred the results to the Centre for Food Safety for follow-up.
Meanwhile, the test also found over 70 percent of the samples contained pesticides, with one sample even detected with seven types of pesticides alone.
The watchdog noted that the combination of pesticides may result in a multiplying “cocktail effect” which could pose health risks, and that the industry should reduce the use of such chemical methods to minimize risks to humans and the environment.
In recent years, goji berries have become a highly sought-after “superfood”, and they are indeed nutritious and healthy, said the council. However, it said consumers should take note of the following when buying and consuming.
- Goji berries are susceptible to mould after the packaging is opened and should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place;
- Before consumption, wash then soak the goji berries in cold drinking water for 15 to 20 minutes to remove the harmful residues from the surface. Avoid soaking for too long, while prolonged cooking at high temperature is also inadvisable, as these may result in the loss of soluble nutrients such as vitamin C and minerals;
- According to TCM research, goji berries are suitable for people with a yin-deficient constitution, used for addressing symptoms such as soreness and pain in the loins and knees, dizziness and tinnitus, and blurred vision. However, people with spleen deficiency, “heat” and “dampness” in the body, and shortness of breath with phlegm should not consume goji berries regularly.