Insect Fragments Found in Pickled Vegetable Samples: Hong Kong’s Consumer Council

Insect Fragments Found in Pickled Vegetable Samples: Hong Kong’s Consumer Council
On July 18, 2023, the "Kun Xing Ji" olive vegetable sample contained 310 insect fragments per 100 grams. (Sung Pi-Lung/The Epoch Times)

On July 18, the Hong Kong Consumer Council released the findings on 30 packaged pickled vegetable products, some of which are available in the American market. It has raised concerns about the safety and quality of some packaged pickled vegetable products with high sodium content.

The Consumer Council examined 30 packaged pickled vegetable samples, including kimchi, German sauerkraut, cucumber, mustard greens, radish, and olives. While pickled vegetables offer dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial probiotics due to the fermentation process, the study revealed some troubling findings.

One major concern is the high sodium content found in over 85 percent of the tested samples. Regular consumption of high-sodium foods can increase the risk of hypertension and other related health issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults consume less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily, approximately equivalent to 5 grams of table salt (a little less than one teaspoon). Among the tested samples, 26 were classified as “high-sodium” foods, containing sodium levels ranging from 641 to 3,080 milligrams per 100 grams.

In particular, the “Kun Xing Ji” olive vegetable stood out, with the highest sodium content among all samples. Just 30 grams of this sample contained 924 milligrams of sodium, close to half of the WHO’s recommended daily intake. Long-term excessive sodium intake can lead to elevated blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases. The study also found discrepancies in sodium content labeling for some samples, underscoring the need for clearer and more accurate information for consumers.

Fermented foods are often celebrated for their probiotic benefits, and 30 percent of the tested samples contained probiotics that promote gut health. However, not all pickled vegetables are equally beneficial in this aspect. Certain pickling methods, including high-temperature pasteurization, can deactivate probiotics, reducing health benefits. Therefore, consumers who seek probiotic-rich pickled vegetables should choose products that have yet to undergo high-temperature processing.

The presence of foreign particles in pickled vegetables was another alarming finding, with almost all samples (29 out of 30) containing various foreign particles, including insects, dust mites, hair, metal, and plastic fragments. While most samples had a relatively low amount of foreign particles, three olive vegetable samples stood out, with insect fragment counts ranging from 91 to 310 pieces per 100 grams.

In light of these concerning results, the Consumer Council urges manufacturers to prioritize product quality and safety during production and distribution. Additionally, they recommend that consumers maintain a balanced diet, incorporating fresh vegetables as the primary source of nutrition and limiting pickled vegetable consumption.

For those who enjoy making pickled vegetables at home, the Consumer Council suggests ensuring proper sterilization and hygiene practices is crucial to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. Following reliable recipes and avoiding excessive fermentation times can also help reduce potential health hazards.