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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bleaching of shark fins

I don't understand why shark fin is so sought after when it's obvious that it's totally not fit for human consumption. It's got no taste and has to be heavily treated before being edible. I wouldn't pay a large sum of money to eat bleach regardless of whether the amount is enough to cause any "severe toxicity".

From the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks:

Processing of "raw" fins

2.3.4 Bleaching

The fins are usually bleached to give them a desirable whitish colour. The methods include smoking with sulphur overnight or treatment with 3 % hydrogen peroxide for about 30 minutes.
The Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong has this to say about hydrogen peroxide:
Oral ingestion of 3% hydrogen peroxide solutions (household strength) generally does not result in severe toxicity but may result in vomiting, mild irritation to mucosa and burns in the mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach. Ingestion of higher concentration, e.g. >10%, can result in more dangerous sequelae such as burns to mucus membranes and gut mucosa.

In Hong Kong, hydrogen peroxide can be used in food as a bleaching agent provided that the residue should be removed in the finished products. Furthermore, only food grade hydrogen peroxide should be used in processing food and the dosage used should be limited to the amount sufficient for the purpose.

14 out of 25 shark fin samples were found to have residual hydrogen peroxide ranging from 0.0002% to 1.5%. This indicated that the processing of some shark fins had not followed good manufacturing practice. As hydrogen peroxide is unstable, the levels found in the dry shark fin samples would not have adverse health effects as the usual steps of preparation and cooking of shark fin would effectively remove the residual hydrogen peroxide, if any, in shark fins. Nevertheless, the traders have been warned to adhere to good manufacturing and processing procedures.

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