Bubble tea raises health concerns

January 20, 2018 | 09:40
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During the first 20 days of 2018, Hà Nội Market Watch Force has inspected two huge shipments of bubble tea materials that lacked a certificate of origin.
Drinking too much bubble tea can cause health problems. - Photo tuoitre.com.vn

The latest case took place was on Monday when the force in collaboration with Hà Nội Police investigated the warehouse of Heekcaa Việt Nam Co, Ltd, and found hundreds of unlabeled tea bags and semi-finished products. Half of these bags had been repackaged and stamped with fake “Made in Việt Nam” labels, even though their origin was unknown.

Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba tea, originated in Taiwan. A typical cup of bubble tea contains a tea base mixed with milk or fruit; chewy tapioca balls called pearls, boba or bubbles; and other toppings such as fruit jelly, pudding or sweetened red beans.

Introduced into Việt Nam more than a decade ago, bubble tea is an increasingly favorite drink among Vietnamese youngsters. Though its popularity is undeniable, bubble tea has raised several health concerns.

A representative of the National Institute for Food Control told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper that the Government should conduct a massive test on bubble tea quality as students are the main consumers of the product.

Hoàng Đại Nghĩa, head of Group 6 under the Hà Nội Market Management Force, stressed the serious risks of unqualified food.

“It will be hazardous for our children’s health if those drinks contain unclear chemicals,” he said.

The raw materials for bubble tea—black tea, milk powder and dried bubbles—are easily bought on Hàng Buồm Street. Those products’ origins, however, are commonly unknown.

The price of bubble tea ranges from VNĐ12,000 up to 50,000 (US$0.5 to 2.2). Many students love it no matter how much it costs.

Nutrionist Trần Lan Hương worried that the huge amount of sugar in bubble tea might lead to obesity in young people.

Trần Minh Hạnh, deputy director of HCM City Nutrition Centre, said that though it was known as “milk tea”, bubble tea has no fresh milk at all. Milk powder, its main ingredient, contains mostly fat and less protein.

“Bubble milk tea is just a tempting drink. It should not been considered as ‘milk’ for daily intake,” she said.

Trần Ngọc Lưu Phương, head of the Digestive Disease Interventions Department under Nguyễn Tri Phương Hospital inHCM City, said that a cup of bubble tea had 500 to 600kg calories, equal to a bowl of rice, meat and vegetables. Despite its high energy, bubble tea provides insufficient amounts of nutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The high amount of sugar combining with flavors and additives in bubble tea may lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Bubbles made from tapioca make people feel full and tend to skip meals, leading to an imbalanced diet,” she said.

Besides bubble tea’s nutrient facts, the unhygienic mixing process has also raised alarm bells. According to Trần Trường Chinh, deputy chief inspector of Cần Thơ City Department of Health, investigations detected several bubble tea shops violating regulations of hygiene and food safety. With various home-made or imported ingredients, food poisoning may happen if bubble tea is made in dirty conditions, he said.


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