24 July 2007

White Rabbit Candies

The timing of the accusation was impeccable. China, under fire recently from allegations of neglecting product safety as observed from importing "killer toothpastes," melamine-tainted pet food, and drug-tainted seafood was once again put in bad light weeks ago when the Philippines' BFAD found traces of formaldehyde (formalin) in White Rabbit candies.

White Rabbit candies are popular in the Philippines. There are two kinds --- a local version and the ones imported from China. Many prefer the latter because they say it tastes better and that its thin paper-like wrapping is also edible. So, it was understantable that many were disappointed when the formalin issue broke out. Alarmed Filipino bloggers expressed their dismay online.

Weng Mao, the Chinese White Rabbit candy manager, denied the BFAD allegations, and was even photographed eating the candies before the media in a press conference.

Neighboring countries like Singapore and Brunei were also alarmed because they were also importing White Rabbit candies and had conducted their own tests to see how valid were the allegations made by the Philippines' BFAD.

Their verdict?

White Rabbit does contain formalin, but in minute amounts only. It is therefore safe to eat, and does not pose any danger to consumers.

One cannot help then to ask why the impeccable timing of the accusation that imported White Rabbit candies contain formalin. I mean, this candy has been here for years and years! If there is formalin there now, was there no formalin there before? Or was no one conducting tests? Why only now?

If you believe in real stories behind stories, you can read this and this. In case the links go dead in the future, here are excerpts:
A report from Agence France-Presse carried by major newspapers over the weekend said the Chinese government suspended the importation of frozen chicken feet, pig ears and other animal parts from the Philippine export company Iexco, claiming the products were found to be tainted with arsenic, a kind of poison, and salmonella, a dangerous bacteria, after inspection. [AHN, July 18 2007]

Of course, if the authorities can’t substantiate their claims, the Philippines could suffer from a Chinese trade backlash —to say nothing of a terrible loss of face. And people who love their White Rabbits may never forgive them, either. [Manila Standard, July 20 2007]

The insinuation is that the whole thing is merely a tit-for-tat reaction of Philippine authorities. I sure hope it is not. For the sake of all White Rabbit lovers out there.

Formalin is everywhere. Even in shampoos. I think what matters is if people are consuming them beyond the allowed tolerable limit (0.15 mg per kg body weight, WHO standards). Only then should we be alarmed and ban these products. Otherwise, I do not think we can escape from traces of formalin. As I said, it is always present in most food items and personal hygiene products.

13 reactions:

ipanema said...

This is alarming doc. But thanks to your explanation, at least it is safer to still consume and eat some of these products. Formalin must have some value in the production of this am not sure.

When I read about the white rabbit I said, 'Oh my childhood sweets.' But I didn't eat the variety you pictured. Perhaps mine is made in the Philippines. It's much harder than that Chinese variety white rabbit.

Gee, toothpaste, pet food what next? But as you mentioned, there are traces in most products we encounter everyday.

As always, your posts are reflective and educational. Thanks for posting this! :)

tani said...

Hi Doc Emer. Someone told me that what's happening with White Rabbit candies right now is similar to what happened with Stork menthol candies. He also said the culprit is the paper wrapping the candies. That's why the menthol candies these days don't have paper wrappings. Haven't researched on that though.

toni said...

Such bad press then! But the image of it being bad has been set in my mind. If I can avoid eating foods and using shampoos that I know have formalin, I will. Perhaps other products that I use also have traces of formalin, I'm sure of that. But with those products that I know contain the harmful substance, I'll steer clear of them now. Unless a huge PR campaign comes and helps change my mind! Thanks for the info, Dr. E!

rolly said...

I have known White Rabbit since I was a small kid. That would be in the 60's. Yup, it has been here a long time but the China one is new. For one thing, the paper cover was not edible before and the candy was much harder.

What is disheartening is the siopao loaded with cardboard.

Duke said...

I was just reading a writeup on newsweek about China being under serious scrutiny over the goods they manufacture and import. It is a big issue that has yet to be resolved.

White Rabbit candies remind me so much of my childhood!

Char said...

We've been eating it for years and years!!!

Kung ano ako ngayon (topak or not... which is relative) ay dahil sa White Rabbit.

Mec said...

Baka naman formalin is the new Vitamin C of today's people na talaga :D

Anyway, I won't deny that China could do with more prudence where their products are concerned... I just hope that we also check our own products and make sure we're not committing the same atrocious mistakes and selling people 'bad' products...

may said...

isn't formalin the same thing we use to preserve the animals in our college zoology classes? if it is, di maganda...buhay pa tayo, nape-preserve na:)

(said by a true white bloodied white rabbit lover)

Dr. Emer said...

IPANEMA - Both China and formalin are getting bad feedbacks lately.

TANI - So, the poison is in the edible wrapping? Those doing the lab tests should enlighten us.

TONI - Yes, moderation is always a key factor if we want less exposure.

TITO ROLLY - The "cardboard" siopao is another story.

DUKE - Yes, with White Rabbit, it is not just about eating sweets, but the good memories of childhood it brings back when we eat it.

CHAR - Amen to that! *LOL*

MECSY - Formalin as the "new" Vitamin C? Now, you are making me worry!

MAY - That's one more thing no one is discussing. Students in the health science courses have considerable amounts of formalin exposure. Now, why isn't anyone complaining?!?

JC Jones MA RN said...

Where is Alice when I need her? I am addicted to White Rabbits! What should I do? They probably rot my teeth any way...but so yummy...
JC Jones

Connie said...

The possibility that it's just economic blackmail... that sure makes both governments sound like a bunch of juveniles. Tatakutin mo populasyon para lang mang-inis? But then again, is there anything surprising when it comes to anything government related? Philippines or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Honestly I haven't heard of this news until last night when a friend of mine saw me consume one. My initial reaction was to spit out the candy. I couldn't sleep last night because I was so bothered. I started eating White Rabbit two weeks ago as my defense mechanism against morning sickness as I am 2 months pregnant. I am so scared now. Can anyone enlighten me on this matter? The one I consumed was the hard one, with "made in the Phil." written on the wrapper. Even if it's made in the Phil., I can't help but be paranoid.

From Belinda

Anonymous said...

Oh my God....I hope this isn't true. I buy them 5 bags at a time and have them on my coffee table.......I am addicted to them as well and so is my son and eat them evety day. Formalin is basically formaldehyde...yes, and even in tiny amounts it's not cool. It remains to be seen of they contain melamine but if so I'm screwed.