The bitter reality of sweet candies

Guest Contributor: Amna Haq

Candies, the mere mention reminds us of all sweet things. These sweet delightful delicacies are irresistible even for adults. But what we often overlook is the fact that these tiny, sugary, crystals in fact contains toxins in various forms, be it artificial flavorings, food color or the pigments in wrapper. Candies mostly made by local, lesser known manufacturers are the main hub of toxins like lead, nickel etc.

A research was conducted regarding “Monitoring of heavy metals on locally available unbranded candies in Karachi” at the Karachi University’s Institute of Environmental Studies by Dr Aamir Alamgir and Syeda Urooj Fatima under the supervision of Prof Moazzam Ali Khan.

For this, forty-six samples of flavored candies made by lesser known manufacturers from areas like Hyderi, Jodia Bazaar, Saddar, Quaidabad, Liaquatabad and Orangi Town were collected and analyzed to check presence of lead, nickel, arsenic, chromium and iron.

According to the study’s findings, metal concentration in sampled sweets ranged from 0.32ppm to 4.12ppm for lead, 0.034ppm to 2.98ppm for nickel, 0.091ppm for maximum arsenic level, 0.22ppm for chromium and 0.034ppm to 3.06ppm for iron. On comparing these concentrations to WHO and FAO standards these were found to be crossing the standard values. As ranges set by WHO for lead is 0.1ppm, 0.2ppm for nickel, 0.1ppm for arsenic and 2-5 ppm for iron respectively.

It was found that herbal and spicy flavored candies or those that had yellow or green colored wrappers contained higher metal contamination than others indicating that contamination might have occurred from wrappers. According to the study, metal contamination may have made its way by using; substandard raw material, food additives, artificial colorings and flavors or during the manufacturing process in form of utensils used, type of wrappers or even the ink used for packaging and improper storage conditions. Also, it is to be noted that all the samples were missing list of ingredients they were made from.

Reason as to why only unbranded sweets were tested was that, as candies main consumer are children and regular consumption of it aided by irregular diet, malnutrition and low immunity levels pose serious threat to their health thus making them center of the research.

Since lead and nickel both are potential carcinogens especially for children. Effects of these can sometimes permanently damage vital organs like nervous system resulting in sleep, behavioral problems, cramps, constipation and headaches. The researchers found that generally these lesser quality, unbranded candies are cheap costing not more than
Rs2 and usually list of ingredients is absent.

Dr Qaiser Sajjad of the Pakistan Medical Association said it was the responsibility of the provincial food and health departments to ensure whatever food was available in the market was safe. Monitoring of what is going in market is essential in this regard and must be done for insurance of safe health of children that are our future. In many countries for
lead chromate is banned but unfortunately in Pakistan it is till being used for candy wrappings. So, measure must be taken and is a national responsibility.


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