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Bangkok Street Fruit contamination

Posted by busylizzy on 15/9/2010 at 07:56

Came across this article today...

"FRUIT buyers, beware. A survey of the Thai capital's ubiquitous fruit carts that sell snack bags filled with juicy watermelon chunks, papaya slivers and exotic treats such as pickled guava has found the fruit also contains unsafe levels of bacteria and chemicals that help keep it looking fresh in Bangkok's tropical heat."

"If the pickled fruits tested, 64 per cent were tainted with hazardous chemicals, mainly colour dyes to keep the guavas extragreen and the mango slices bright yellow."

Full article here: story here

This kind of guts me. One of the (many) things I enjoy about travelling in Asia is the vast range and supply of fresh fruit. I would like to think it is unadulterated fruit. I'm not obsessive, but I do my best to avoid unnecessarily processed foods (usually cooking from scratch, etc). Who would have thought that fresh fruit was being intentionally tainted with unnecessary chemicals?

If I buy fruit, I do tend to try and get the whole fruit, and get the seller to slice and dice it in front of me. But I have also bought the trays of pineapple and mango from street sellers as well. I might start thinking twice about that.

#1 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by neosho on 15/9/2010 at 17:19

Thanks for the tip, busylizzy. I'm kind of in the same boat as you I guess. I think I should have know better as all the farmers use all sorts or pesticides and chemical fertilizers and such. Just like back home. I often wonder about some of the pastries we sell and bread I consume. The shelf life is phenomenal. Wow, haven't used that word in a while, so if I spelled it wrong, help me out.

#2 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

Posted by Tilapia on 16/9/2010 at 00:14

"I think I should have know better as all the farmers use all sorts or pesticides and chemical fertilizers and such."

This isn't necessarily true. Many of the farmers I worked with in Prachinburi and Nakhon Nayok were strictly organic farmers/growers of mango, durian, mah-prang, pomello, rambutan, limes, jackfruit, and mangosteen, as well as rice.

The thing about most of the fruit vendors we see on the street is that they buy (or are provided with) the less expensive fruit to sell. They don't make much in the first place, so some will do whatever is necessary to prolong the shelf life of their wares.

Organic fruit is almost always more expensive and tends to end up at higher end restaurants, hotels, and resorts. Very unlikely that Bangkok fruit vendors are going to be hawking this stuff because they can't afford to buy it in the first place.

My friend's mother is a fruit vendor at Bobae in Bangkok. She spends the afternoon slicing up pineapples and watermelon on the floor of their shop in Thonburi, not far from where the dogs sleep, and then sells it during the evening. There is no handwashing. There is no sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils. There is no fly control. When she comes home the next morning, whatever is left-over sits around until it gets packed into a refrigerator with the rest of the family's food until it's brought out again.

Good idea to get the vendor to cut-up a whole fruit rather than buy one that's pre-cut. Plus, it gives you a chance to check out the vendor, the vendor's hands (are there cuts all over them?), and equipment before buying.

This issue has been around for about 20 years and steps have been taken to improve the food safety situation. The problem is that there are so many vendors that reaching the majority of them for food safety training is pretty much impossible. Perhaps the biggest reason for unsafe food is poverty. Most of Bangkok's food vendors come from the lower end of the socio-economic scale and this reflects strongly in their living conditions, food-related equipment that is available, education, and other issues that contribute to food safety.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,524

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