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How does air fryer work? Air fryer consists of a heating element and an electric fan, which used the hot air to air-fried food instead of using cooking oil. The electric fan drives hot air circulation inside the fryer, so that the heat spreads faster and more evenly. Although air fryers come in various models, the design is very similar. Users only put the food in, set the temperature and time. Air fryer - safety issues at a glance The Consumer Council (or the “Council”) tested 12 air fryers on the market (the “Test”), and found various safety issues, including: Temperature rise exceeded the limit The temperature rise of air fryers’ various parts should not exceed the limit as specified by the relevant standard to avoid overheating and affecting the product’s safety. Such temperature rise depends on the materials, construction, heat dissipation design, and whether it will be touched by users or not. The test found that the temperature rise of the internal wires of some models exceeded the specified limit, and the measured maximum surface temperature rise of the handle of some models slightly exceeded the limit. Prolonged contact with these handles might therefore increase the risks of getting burns. Insufficient insulation distance The electric poles of live parts should be kept at a certain distance to avoid risks such as short circuiting, arcing, electrical leakage and overheating. In 3 models, the insulation distance between the live parts and user-accessible parts was insufficient, falling short of 1 to 2.5mm from the relevant standard, which might increase the risk of short circuiting. Poor earthing terminal design If the power cord is accidentally pulled and the stablising device fails, the earthing conductor should become taut after other live wires, so that it will not loosefirst and affect the earthing protection. the earthing conductor of 1 model was not the last to become taut. Insufficient instructions The brand name and model number of 1 model did not print on the product. If there is any product problem occurred, the user cannot follow up with the agent or the manufacturer. Also, many models had insufficient warnings in the manual, such as wordings of “children and the elderly should be supervised when using the product” and “do not allow young children to play with the product”, etc. Air-fried food may be oil-free of but still can be carcinogenic Frequently consuming fried foods may increase carcinogenic risk because some food like potatoes, acrylamide will be formed through a chemical reaction when it cooked at high temperature (above 120°C) with little water. In 1994, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified acrylamide as "probably carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2A), so reducing the intake of acrylamide is better. Use air fryers cooking food, although oil-free, the fried food may probably contain carcinogenic acrylamide since it is air fried at high temperature. In fact, while the Council was conducting the test, the frozen thin French fries were air-fried according to the recipes provided by the manufacturers or agents. The acrylamide content of air-fried frozen thin French fries was tested. It found that all models were found to contain acrylamide at levels ranging from 102μg/kg to 7,038μg/kg, a difference of 68 times! And the acrylamide content of half models was exceeded the EU benchmark level (500μg/kg)! Cooking temperature and time greatly affect the acrylamide level The Council conducted a subsequent test using the model with the highest level of acrylamide (7038μg/kg). It was found that the acrylamide content of the French fries significantly dropped to 207μg/kg if the cooking time was reduced by 8 minutes (while the cooking temperature remains unchanged). At the same time, if the cooking temperature was reduced by 50°C to 150°C (while the cooking time remained unchanged), the acrylamide content of the French fries would also significantly dropped to 444 μg/kg. The results demonstrated that cooking temperature and time could affect greatly on the level of acrylamide produced. Therefore, consumers should adjust the cooking time and temperature according to the size, quantity, and thickness of the food items, and try to avoid frying food at high temperature or for a long time in order to reduce the risks of intaking acrylamide. 4 ways to make air-fried potatoes healthier Consumers often use air fryers to fry potatoes or foods made from potatoes (such as French fries). Taking French fries as an example, consumers can reduce their acrylamide content by following these 4 tricks during air frying: Avoid using frozen potatoes If fresh potatoes are used to make French fries, avoid using potatoes that are stored at 6°C or lower because the content of reducing sugar (a substance that produces acrylamide) is likely to be higher. Cut potatoes into thick slices The thickness of the French fries will affect the production of acrylamide. The thicker the slices, the smaller the air-frying surface area, and the lower the content of acrylamide produced. Wash before cooking Before air frying, rinse the potato slices or cook it with water, the asparagine and reducing sugar on the surface could be reduced, both substances produce acrylamide. Check the colour The darker colour of the French fries (such as dark brown), the higher level of acrylamide, so consumers should only fry them until light yellow or golden yellow. If you want to learn more about the performance of air fryers, please refer to the article, “Air Frying French Fries For Long Duration Produce Carcinogens Half of Air Fryers Pose Potential Safety Hazards”, CHOICE Magazine, Issue 532 (Chinese version only), to find out which air fryer models are safer and the performance of each model. Extended reading: learn more about acrylamide If you want to learn more about acrylamide, or find out which snacks contain this substance, or how to reduce acrylamide intake, please refer to the article, “Trivia Facts on Cooking: Deep-Fried Foods are Carcinogenic?”, (Chinese version only).
What is the use of mineral oil? Mineral oils (paraffinum liquidum/mineral oil) are ingredients that commonly used in the production of skincare and cosmetic products. Some of them can form a thin film on the skin surface to reduce water loss. Mineral oil hydrocarbons have different components and structures. Two types of mineral oil hydrocarbons, namely mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) mixtures, some of them may pose potential health risks to the human body: MOSH Depending on their molecular weight, MOSH can be divided into short-chained (number of carbon atoms <C25) or long-chained (number of carbon atoms from C16 to C35, and from >C35 to C50). Animal tests have shown that some short-chained MOSHs are related to the formation of hepatic granuloma. As for long-chained MOSHs, they may be accumulated in adipose tissues, lymph nodes, spleen and liver, causing lipogranulomas and microgranulomas. MOAH They can also be divided into short-chained and long-chained according to their molecular weight. They may contain carcinogens, and some are even suspected of being genotoxic and carcinogenic. In view of this, some countries have set relevant recommendations and restrictions on the amount of these substances in lip balms. How can I reduce the intake of mineral oils? Read the list of ingredients and choose products carefully If you see mineral oils such as petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum, polyethylene, polybutene, etc. (e.g. in picture below) on the list of ingredients of a product, and these ingredients are listed as its first 3 ingredients, then this product has a higher chance of containing a higher amount of MOSH. Besides, MOAH can be found in many products with a high MOSH content. Therefore, consumers should avoid using lip balms that contain these ingredients. Watch out for allergens In addition to the above-mentioned mineral oils which may pose health risks to the human body, some lip balm products may also contain allergens. Therefore, consumers should be cautious when applying lip balms to avoid allergic reactions. Fragrance Many lip balm products also contain fragrance substances. In fact, each type of fragrance may be created by mixing of many chemical substances. Some of these fragrance substances are more allergenic. Other fragrance substances that are not highly allergenic themselves but can form more allergenic substances after being exposed to air, e.g. limonene and linalool commonly found in lip balm products. Antioxidants Antioxidants which are used to prevent the oxidation of lip balm may also cause allergies. After applying products on the lips for a certain period of time, lip balm users, especially those who suffer from eczema, may develop allergic reactions such as itchiness, chapped lips, or even burning and tingling sensations. Heavy metals Nickel is an example of a common allergen. When it comes into contact with the skin, nickel may cause allergic contact cheilitis with conditions such as dryness, chapped lips, rashes, swelling, as well as burning and tingling sensations. Furthermore, some studies have found that eye cosmetic products with nickel content as low as 1mg/kg may cause allergies to people who have sensitive skin. Therefore, consumers should pay special attention to the nickel content in lip balms. Lanolin and UV filters Lanolin, which is used to moisturise the skin, and 2 ingredients in sunscreens, benzophenone-3/oxybenzone and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, are common allergens. The latter is even a potential endocrine disruptor. These situations may also damage your lips! Using a lip balm that contains allergenic ingredients may significantly increase the chance of damaging your lips. You should also note that certain situations such as overexposure to the sun, cold, dryness and extreme weather can make your lips dry, rough, dull, or even chapped. In addition, frequent breathing through the mouth may also aggravate the problem of dry lips. Lip Moisturising Tips To always keep your lips moist, the best method is to apply lip balm regularly, which can help resist changes in the environment. If you plan to have prolonged outdoor activities, you should choose a lip balm with sun protection factors. If you plan to stay indoors, you can use normal lip balm. You should also avoid wiping your lips frequently, as this will weaken the natural oily protection layer on your lip surface. Before eating and drinking, wipe off the lip balm to reduce the chance of ingesting mineral oils. The Consumer Council has tested 45 models of lip balm on the market. If you want to know which ones are safer, watch the video below and read the report, “80% of Lip Balm Models Found to Contain Harmful Mineral Oils Some with Potential Risks of Cancer”, CHOICE Magazine, Issue 521 (Chinese version only).
Buying infant formula: Which is the right “stage” for my baby? “When should my baby switch to Stage 2 formula?” “Can my baby continue to consume Stage 1 formula instead of changing to Stage 2 or Stage 3?” Parents may often be puzzled when they hear others talk about infant formula stages. Actually, infant formulas that comply with the standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) can be divided into 4 stages (Stages 1 – 4). Stage 1 (infant formula) It is suitable for newborn babies until 12 months old and is intended as a substitute for breast milk. This formula is specially made to satisfy the nutritional requirements of babies without additional supplements. Stage 2 (follow-up formula) It is also known as the “big baby’s formula”. It is intended as a substitute for breast milk or infant formula. It is suitable for babies who are older than 6 months but younger than 36 months as they are starting to ingest solid foods. As they begin to ingest diverse foods, Stage 2 formula can be taken as a liquid diet component but should not be treated as the only source of nutrients. Stage 3 and Stage 4 (follow-up formulas) These are suitable for babies aged one or above for acquiring extra nutrients. It is not difficult to find out the stage of a particular infant formula as it is usually indicated on the container in a larger font size. When should my baby switch to “big baby’s formula”? Perhaps many parents are puzzled by this question. Although “big baby’s formula” is a bit different from infant formula in terms of ingredients, there is no need to switch as long as the baby has other food sources to attain adequate nutrition. When the baby is over 1 year old and has a more diversified diet, the formula will become supplementary, and parents may consider switching to cow’s milk until the baby is weaned onto solid foods. Babies between ages 1 and 2 can take whole milk as they require sufficient fats for development. For those between 2 and 5, parents may consider low-fat milk as long as they have sufficient nutrient intake from solid foods. Children above 5 may switch to skimmed milk as excessive fats and calories may increase the risks of developing obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Let’s take a look at the ingredients of infant formulas in advertisements! In the advertisements, we often hear manufacturers claiming that their products contain ingredients such as probiotics, DHA and PhD, which contribute to the development of the brain, eyesight and immune system in babies, as well as improve their bowel movements. However, are these ingredients really capable of providing sufficient nutrients and supporting babies’ normal development as claimed by the manufacturers? Probiotic Probiotics are active microorganisms that can improve the balance of intestinal microbiota. Sufficient intake of probiotics is good for health. The more representative probiotics include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus. Prebiotic It is claimed that prebiotics (also known as prebiotic fibres) can improve babies’ intestinal health. They are organic substances that cannot be digested in the human body but can stimulate probiotic growth or activity in the intestines. Prebiotics are usually oligosaccharides and soluble dietary fibres. DHA DHA, commonly associated with brain development in babies, is the abbreviation for docosahexaenoic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid (or ω-3 fatty acid or n-3 fatty acid). In our daily diet, our intake of DHA mainly comes from fish, especially oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies and sweetfish. AA Similarly, it is claimed that AA can also help in the development of the brain and nervous system. AA is the abbreviation for arachidonic acid and is a type of omega-6 fatty acid (or ω-6 fatty acid or n-6 fatty acid). Intake of AA in our daily diet mainly comes from animal fats, liver, eggs and fish. Breast milk naturally contains DHA and AA, but cow’s milk does not. Therefore, DHA and AA are additives in cow’s milk . Besides, healthy babies can produce DHA and AA from the linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid in infant formulas. Regarding the above ingredients, although there are individual studies indicating that adding these ingredients in infant formula products is beneficial to babies, more research is needed to prove their clinical efficacies and whether they should be added as essential ingredients. According to the current standards of CAC, these ingredients are not essential in infant formula products. β-Glucan It is claimed that β-Glucan can enhance babies’ immune systems. β-Glucan is a form of carbohydrates that is mainly composed of the cell walls of fungi, yeast, some bacteria and grains (such as oats and barley). However, according to current findings, there is not enough evidence to prove that β-Glucan can enhance the immune system of babies. PhD (Phospholipid) PhD is neither a pizza restaurant nor an academic degree here. It is a type of lipids that is claimed to facilitate the development of babies’ brains. Breast milk and cow’s milk naturally contain PhD. According to infant formula labels, the source of their PhD is from the added "emulsifier (soy lecithin)". Lecithin is actually a common ingredient in foods. Apart from soybeans, eggs, liver, beef and peanuts, vegetables and fruits such as cauliflowers, potatoes, oranges, and apples also contain lecithin. However, there is not enough evidence to prove that PhD is especially beneficial to babies’ intellectual development. Hydrolyzed formula Proteins are formed by linking discrete amino acids. Under normal circumstances, human bodies (including babies’) can digest and absorb proteins after ingestion. What are hydrolyzed proteins? Through hydrolysis, long-chain proteins are broken down into shorter proteins or free amino acids. It is claimed that the process helps babies to digest proteins more easily. Infant formulas containing hydrolyzed proteins are also called hydrolyzed formulas. According to the degree of hydrolysis, they can be classified as "amino acid-based formula", "extensively hydrolyzed formula" or "partially hydrolyzed formula”. The first two are also known as "hypoallergenic infant formula". "Extensively hydrolyzed formula" is generally used as a therapeutic formula for babies who cannot digest protein in cow's milk or are allergic to it. However, there is still not enough evidence to prove that "partially hydrolyzed formula" specifically improves babies’ digestion, absorption and immunity. In conclusion, according to the standards of CAC and expert opinions, the above-mentioned ingredients are not essential ingredients for infant formulas. Basically, the ingredients of infant formulas are similar across brands, so parents should not be overly concerned and influenced by the product claims and promotions. Instead, parents should check the product labels and consider factors such as their actual need and the supply of products. What can product labels tell you? 1. Food label and ingredient list You can check the ingredients such as lactose, vegetable oil and skimmed milk powder emulsifier, etc. in infant formulas to find out if they contain possible allergens for babies. 2. Nutrition information Most product labels on infant formula containers indicate the nutrients and their amounts per 100g so that parents can find out the type and proportion of nutrients that their babies ingest. In addition, the labels also indicate the nutrients per 100ml so that parents can check whether their babies’ daily intake of nutrients is above or below the standard. 3. Preparation steps and recommended feeding amount Different manufacturers may use different production processes and methods, so the preparation steps and amount of infant formula to be used are also different. If the infant formula is not prepared according to the instructions, you may end up with undissolved powder or an over-diluted feed. At the same time, most infant formulas have a feeding chart which shows the recommended amount of infant formula and warm water to be used per feeding, and the number of feeding per day, according to the baby’s age (in months). It is best to feed your baby according to the recommended amount, otherwise you may end up with a feed that is too concentrated or diluted, which will lead to 2 problems: Prolonged intake of concentrated infant formula: Babies will cry due to thirst. Parents may mistakenly think that their babies are still hungry and feed them again, leading to overfeeding; Prolonged intake of over-diluted infant formula: Babies will feel hungry and cry shortly after feeding, and may suffer from malnutrition in the long run. (Note: The specific amount for each feeding depends on the needs of individual babies or the instructions of medical practitioners.) 4. Shelf life Since infant formulas do not decay very easily, consumers can tell their shelf life by referring to the “Best Before” dates printed on sealed infant formula containers. However, once opened, infant formulas can only be kept for 3-4 weeks in general (or according to the instructions on the packaging). Unsealed products that have been left for a long time should be discarded. Therefore, consumers should consider buying products in smaller sizes if the serving is small. 5. Special storage or instructions of use If a particular infant formula requires special storage methods to maintain its shelf life or requires special instructions of use, these requirements must be specified on the labels. Infant formula preparation: 7 steps to know As sterilization is not yet adopted in the existing manufacturing processes of infant formulas, it is necessary to pay extra attention to hygiene and food safety when preparing infant formulas to avoid harming babies’ developing digestive system. Let’s look at the following steps and precautions: 1. Cleaning Clean your hands and surroundings properly. After washing your hands with liquid soap and water, dry them with a piece of clean cloth or tissue paper. 2. Preparing the baby bottle Take out the sterilised baby bottle. If there is condensation inside the bottle, discard it first. 3. Measuring the amount Measure the amount of infant formula and water in the prescribed ratio as per instructions. The size of the spoon provided in the container differs across brands, therefore consumers should use the spoon provided by the original manufacturer. Besides, do not compress the powder in the spoon to avoid adding extra infant formula and making the milk too concentrated. 4. Preparing infant formula Boil tap or distilled water and allow it to cool for no more than 30 minutes. Use water of at least 70°C to prepare infant formula in order to kill any harmful bacteria in it. However, one should note that water which is too hot will destroy the vitamins in the infant formula. Also, avoid using mineral water to prepare infant formula due to its high mineral content. Remember to pour water first, and then add formula powder. Fill the spoon with the formula powder and level off with a clean knife. Do not compress the formula powder into the spoon. 5. Dissolving formula powder Put the teat , cap and other components on the baby bottle, and then gently shake or rotate the bottle to completely dissolve the formula powder. Do not shake too vigorously, lest a large amount of air may enter, causing foaming. 6. Cooling the hot milk At this point, the temperature of the milk is still not suitable for consumption. You need to put the baby bottle under running water or in cold water to cool it down to around body temperature. It should be noted that the water level must be lower than the bottle mouth and should not come into contact with the teat. You can test the temperature by dripping some milk on the inside of your wrist or using a colorimetric temperature patch. 7. Consuming immediately To prevent bacterial growth, the prepared infant formula should be consumed immediately and should not be left at room temperature for too long. It should be thrown away if not consumed within 2 hours. Once the bottle has been sucked on, bacteria from the oral cavity may contaminate the bottle and its content and therefore it should not be reheated for further consumption. If you want to store prepared infant formula, you should minimise the time it is left at room temperature. You can put the prepared infant formula in the refrigerator (but not the freezer) and store it at 4°C or below. Unconsumed infant formula that has been stored in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours should also be discarded. Things to note when feeding babies 1. Consume prepared infant formula After removing the prepared infant formula from the refrigerator, you can put the baby bottle in warm water to warm up the content. This process should be done within 15 minutes to reduce the growth of germs. Avoid heating milk in the microwave because the uneven temperature of the heated milk can cause burns to babies. Shake the bottle well before feeding. 2. Do not let babies consume infant formulas by themselves Do not raise the bottles and let babies suck the bottles by themselves due to risks of suffocation. 3. Know when the baby is full Look out for signals that the baby may be full during feeding. If the baby stops sucking, parents should not force the baby to finish the bottle. 4. Do not let the baby sleep with the bottle If the baby has fallen asleep during feeding, you should remove the bottle. Do not let the baby develop a habit of sleeping with the bottle which may increase the risks of tooth decay. Is my baby allergic to cow’s milk? If your baby shows signs of discomfort after being fed with formula containing cow’s milk proteins, it may be suffering from galactosemia or allergic to cow’s milk proteins. Babies who are allergic to cow's milk proteins may also be allergic to soya and goat milk proteins, and therefore soya or goat milk formulas are also not suitable for consumption. Parents should consult medical staff to find out whether their babies need special medical formulas. Will my baby suffer from constipation after consuming infant formulas? In fact, the protein content in infant formulas may be related to constipation. Milk proteins can be roughly divided into whey and casein. Cow’s milk contains a higher proportion of casein compared with breast milk, and its physical and chemical properties are also different. The casein in cow's milk is more difficult to digest by babies. In addition, dry and hard stools are also related to the fat content in infant formulas. The palmitic acids in infant formulas are in the Sn-1 and Sn-3 positions of triglycerides. After being released by digestive enzymes, free palmitic acids will combine with calcium in the intestines to form calcium soaps, which will lead to dry and hard stools. As calcium and iron are usually added to infant formulas, this makes babies’ stools more solid. However, since babies can consume other foods after 6 months, constipation can be eased if their diet includes enough fruits and vegetables. Breastfeeding is still the top choice Breastfeeding is actually the best option for mothers. First, there is no need to prepare infant formula and to worry about water quality and the cleanliness of utensils. Second, breast milk has all the necessary nutrients for babies, and adapts to the living environment of both the mother and the baby to meet babies’ needs. It can also improve babies’ resistance to illnesses. The palmitic acid in breast milk is at the Sn-2 position of triglycerides. After digestion, it is easily absorbed by the intestines. Therefore, breastfeeding is less likely to cause dry and hard stools. In addition, breastfeeding time is the most intimate moment between mothers and babies, which can help the development of babies’ cognitive ability and is critical for the growth of babies. Breastfeeding can also reduce the mothers’ risks of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The Consumer Council tested 15 pre-packaged infant formulas on the market to assess product safety and the actual nutrient content. Watch the video below to learn about the results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM5YGwElxP0 (Chinese version only) For the detailed report, please refer to the article, “Infant Formulas Tested, 9 Models Were Found to Contain Contaminants and Carcinogens” CHOICE Magazine, Issue 526 (Chinese version only).
Composition of the hair dye determines durability The first step of hair dyeing is, of course, choosing the right hair dye product. Hair dye products can generally be divided into the three types, according to the durability of the dyeing effect: 1. Permanent In addition to dyes, permanent hair dye products will contain two other main ingredients that allow the dye to stay permanently in the hair: ammonia, which opens the cuticle layer of the hair and enable the dye to enter the cortical layer; and hydrogen peroxide, which removes the natural colour of the hair and allows the dye to attach to the cortex. Permanent hair dye products enable people to dye all their hair and change their hair colour completely, but the disadvantage is the risk of damaging the hair surface, resulting in dry or frizzy hair. 2. Semi-permanent Ammonia or hydrogen peroxide is generally not added in semi permanent hair dye product, although some products may contain a small amount of ammonia type chemicals, slightly opening the cuticles of the hair and allowing some dyes to enter the inner cortex, but the rest will only stick to the surface of the hair. Therefore, usually after around 10 or more washing, the hair colour will gradually fade. Semi-permanent hair dyes are more suitable for people whose hair has been dyed previously, or whose hair has been damaged but need to change their hair colour briefly. However, the downside is that hair dyeing process may usually take longer, and if you want to keep the beautiful hair colour, you may have to re-dye it every few days or every week. 3. Temporary Temporary hair dye product will not open the cuticle layer so the dye will only stay on the surface of the hair. The colour will normally fade completely after washing with shampoo and usually does not cause damage to the hair. This is suitable for consumers who only need to make a one-off change to the colour of their hair. Avoid products containing allergenic ingredients 1. Recognize common allergenic ingredients Depending on your needs and preference, you have to decide what type of hair dye product to use. After that, you need to carefully select those products that contain less allergens. Beware if you find these 4 allergenic chemicals in the ingredient list: p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), o-Phenylenediamine (OPD), m-Phenylenediamine (MPD) and toluene-2, 5-diamine (PTD). These chemicals are defined by the CLP Regulation of the European Union (EU) as acute toxic and allergenic substances (Skin Sensitizing Category 1). OPD is a Category 2 carcinogen (Carcinogenic Category 2), while OPD and MPD are Category 2 substances that can cause permanent mutations in genes (Mutagenic Category 2) and should not be used in cosmetics. The Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138A) of the Laws of Hong Kong requires hair dyes containing amphetamines, toluene or other alkalides or their salts to specify these ingredients and their amount on the packaging, as well as the following warning in Chinese and English: "Caution: This preparation may cause serious inflammation of the skin in certain persons and should be used only in accordance with expert advice”. 2. Beware of banned ingredients In addition, 3-Aminophenol (MAP), 4-Aminophenol (PAP), resorcinol and hydroquinone are 4 chemicals which are regarded as acute toxic substances. Hydroquinone is a Category 2 carcinogen, and 4-aminophenol is also defined, according to CLP Regulations, as a Category 2 mutagenic chemical substance that can cause permanent mutations in genes. Although they are not currently listed as prohibited ingredients in Hong Kong, they are prohibited under the EU Cosmetics Regulations and the Technical Safety Standard of Mainland China, and are banned in cosmetics, including hair dyes. Why do hair dyes contain these ingredients? These chemicals are the dye (pigment) that gives color to the hair, which produces different hues when present independently or simultaneously under oxidization. PPD is most common in oxidizing hair dyes because it can be mixed with other chemicals to give brightly coloured dyes. However, a study found that about 1 to 6% of the population in Europe, America and Asia have an allergic reaction to PPD, which majority of those populations are female. The most common allergic symptoms are itching, and many people will also feel pricking, drying and burning sensations. In addition, some people may develop erythema and plaques, and in severe cases complications include contact urticaria, angioedema, hair loss, bronchospasms, asthma, kidney poisoning etc., posing threats to life and health. 3. Beware of ammonia exceeding the standard As mentioned above, permanent hair dyes usually contain ammonia. However, besides having a pungent odour, ammonia can easily cause allergy to the scalp and eyes, so according to the regulations of the EU and the Mainland in cosmetics, the highest concentration of ammonia used in cosmetics is limited to 6%. 4. Don't blindly trust claims to be “natural” People with skin allergies may prefer to choose products that are labelled as more "natural". However, the Consumer Council found that some of the samples claiming to be natural contained rather high levels of allergens, including banned carcinogens. Therefore, consumers must not let down their guard. Nowadays, the most widely used natural hair dye is henna hair dye powder. The Council detected allergenic substances in three related products on the market, with levels even higher than permanent hair dye. Due to its long hair dyeing time, many manufacturers will add chemicals to hair dyeing powder to improve the colouring effect and shorten the hair dyeing time. If consumers find that the product is not labelled with ingredients, and is marked with words such as "quickly dyed black or other bright colours", it is possible that chemicals have been added. In addition, the bacterial content of all herbal henna samples exceeded the allowable microbial content limit of the Mainland. Because of the long hair dyeing time and the need for frequent re-dyeing, the health risks to the body posed by chemicals and microorganisms can be increased. It is also worth mentioning that people suffering from Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency should not use henna as the ingredients may cause haemolytic reactions. 5. Avoid choosing brands for professional use Hair dyes for commercial hair salons generally have stronger colouring effect. However consumers may not be able to understand their method of use, purchase of such products for home use will increase risks. Because the instructions for using professional hair dyes are usually more complex. For example, pigments with different colour numbers may need to be mixed with different concentrations of colour rendering agents, and the operating time is also different. Failure to mix hair dyes in the right proportions or over timing can increase the risk of allergies or make the hair dye less effective. 6 safe steps when using hair dye products After selecting a suitable hair dye, you should pay attention to the following 6 points before you prepare to dye your hair: 1. Take a skin allergy test first Even if a product with relatively safe ingredients is selected, consumers should conduct a skin allergy test just in case. The ingredients of different colour formulas may be different even for the same brand of hair dye so a skin contact test should be conducted again to see whether it will cause allergies. The general test method is applying a small amount of hair dye mixture on the wrist, the inside of the arm, behind the ear or back of the neck or other inconspicuous positions, let it air dry naturally, and observe the skin condition half an hour and 2 days after the application. If skin redness, itching, blistering, etc. appear, it is not recommended to use the relevant product for hair dyeing. 2. Do not wash your hair before dyeing it As the natural oil secretion on the scalp can protect the scalp and reduce the chance of irritation, and moisture in the hair will dilute the hair dye mixture which may affect the dyeing effect, most products do not recommend users washing their hair before dyeing, or applying the mixture of hair dyes to wet hair. Users can wash their hair the day before they prepare to dye it so that it is not too dirty. If you are accustomed to using a large amount of hair styling products every day, you may consider reducing the amount on the day of hair dyeing as the residual styling agents may affect the hair dyeing effect, or blow dry your hair thoroughly after washing before dyeing it. 3. Avoid using hair dye on wounds Hair dyeing procedures are not recommended if any damage to the scalp is found, such as head sores. 4. Apply vaseline to the skin first Before dyeing hair, apply vaseline to the hairline, ears, forehead, neck, etc., to reduce the chance of hair dye irritation to the skin. In case of accidental staining of the skin, it is also easier to wash it off. 5. Do not spray hair dye directly onto the hair For some foam type hair dye products there is no need to mix the solutions. After the nozzle is installed, both the dyeing agent foam and colour rendering agent foam can be extruded by pressing a button, but remember not to shake the bottle of such products vigorously or up and down. Otherwise, the tube will be blocked, which may affect the extrusion of the foam. There are also individual models which require stirring with a small stick to create foam. In other words, the method for using different types of hair dye foam may vary greatly so users should read the instructions before using them. However, no matter what kind of foam is used, avoid spraying the foam directly onto the hair as it can be easily spilled into the eyes. Users should wear gloves and squeeze the foam into their palm before applying it to their hair. 6. Thoroughly rinse off hair dye Rinse the hair several times after dyeing (use of a professional post-dye care shampoo is recommended, which can effectively remove chemical residues) and do not leave hair dye on your hair. Also take care not to scratch the scalp when washing your hair to avoid hair dye or shampoo seeping into the wound. If consumers feel itching or even burning sensations when using hair dyes, they should rinse them off immediately with clean water. After rinsing, if the symptoms of skin irritation persist, help should be sought from health care providers as soon as possible. For the results of the ingredient tests for "natural" / "herbal" / "organic" hair dyes and other permanent hair dyes on the market, please refer toIssue 533 of Choice monthly magazine "Hair dyes claiming to be natural, herbal or organic may be allergenic and contain a lot of bacteria” (Chinese version only), and downloadfor free Issue 465 of Choice monthly magazine "Different severely allergenic substances found in 25 permanent hair dyes ” (Chinese version only)
5 toxic ingredients in nail polishes Parents certainly have concerns about the safety of lipsticks as these can be ingested. They are, however, less sensitive to the safety level of nail polishes, and may buy products which claim to be "non-toxic", "water-based", or "safe for kids” straight away. The Consumer Council (or the “Council”) tested some nail polish available on the market and found that some of the chemical composition and hygiene conditions were less than satisfactory. Parents should therefore beware of them! Heavy metals: Some nail polish models were found to contain trace amounts of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and cadmium. Lead may affect the central nervous system, kidneys and hematopoietic function; certain types of arsenic are carcinogenic; and prolonged exposure to cadmium may cause irritant dermatitis. Even if the heavy metal content of the models tested was in compliance with the relevant standard, as children may grab food with their fingers or suck on them after applying nail polish, they may indirectly ingest nail polish or substances that are chipped off. Therefore, it is best to use products that do not contain any heavy metals. Methanol: Short-term exposure to methanol may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract. If the concentration is high, it is likely to cause teary eyes, headache and dizziness, etc. Therefore, it is best to choose products that do not contain methanol or have a very low methanol concentration. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT): These preservatives may cause skin allergies in children and certain individuals. After applying nail polish, if the skin around the nails or areas that can be touched by the hands, such as the face and neck, are itchy or swollen, it is recommended to stop using the product. People with eczema and children with relatively sensitive skin are more prone to skin allergies. When children are suffering from eczema on their hands, or when there are hangnails or cuts on their fingers, do not apply nail polish to avoid skin discomfort. Benzene: A few models were found to contain the carcinogenic substance benzene. Benzene is also volatile and can be inhaled through breathing, and may irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It is recommended to avoid buying products that contain benzene. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticiser: Adding a plasticiser to nail polish can reduce the drying and cracking of the thin nail polish film and increase its durability on fingernails. However, certain plasticisers such as DBP have potential hazards, including endocrine-disruptive effects, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. Among the tested models, 1 was found to have an excessive amount of DBP, and therefore this product is not recommended for use. Safety tips on nail polishes In addition to checking the ingredients of nail polish, it is also very important to know how to use the nail polish properly to avoid health risks. For children who have a habit of sucking on their fingers: Avoid letting them apply nail polish on their fingers. In particular, some nail polish products come with stickers and rhinestones, and children may accidentally swallow these foreign objects. Do not use expired nail polish products: Expired products may be contaminated by microorganisms. If there is a wound next to the nail, the skin can be easily infected. Ensure good ventilation and keep away from fire: Nail polish contains solvents, which will be emitted during use and may be inhaled. Therefore, it is important to keep the room well ventilated when applying nail polish and stay away from fire or other heat sources. Minimise the duration of wearing nail polish: Nail polish for children, especially the “washable" or "peel off" type of products, is generally less wear-resistant. This may increase the risk of children accidentally swallowing nail polish films that are chipped off. Remove nail polish thoroughly before eating: This can reduce the chance of children accidentally ingesting nail polish that is chipped off. Parents should remove the nail polish for children thoroughly before meals. Pay special attention to water-based nail polish: Nail polish may take a few minutes to dry. Children who lack patience may rub their eyes or touch foods and drinks. Parents should take heed as this will increase the chance of exposing the skin and eyes to nail polish. Use nail polish remover sparingly: Nail polish remover will dissolve sebum on the nails and skin, so it should not be used frequently. Contact with the skin should not be too long. Check if manicure tools are hygienic: Microorganisms and fungi can be transmitted through tools such as nail clippers and nail files. Sharing these tools may lead to skin and nail infections. Safety tips on slime toys Avoid accidental ingestion by children: Some slime or putty toys on the market are put in containers which look likebeverages or desserts, with bright colours and even fragrances. Children may easily consider them as food. Therefore, children should be accompanied by parents when they play with these toys. These items should also be stored properly to prevent the accidential ingestion by pets. Ensure cleanliness: Clean hands thoroughly before and after playing with these toys to avoid contamination between hands and toys. 3 ways to reduce health risks: Avoid contact with eyes, mouth, nose and wounds. Do not eat or drink while playing with these toys. Never leave them on the bed to avoid prolonged contact while sleeping. Stop playing immediately in case of allergic reaction: If the skin develops itchiness, or becomes red and swollen, stop playing immediately. Dispose of toys : Used slime and putty toys should be stored in the original packaging or in sealed boxes to avoid contamination by the environment. If the toys are covered in dust or hair, or have been touched by children who have infectious diseases or shared among many people, these toys should be discarded to prevent the spreading of germs. After reading the safety tips above, don’t miss the detailed reports on nail polish for children and slime and putty toys. Please refer to the articles, “3 Children’s Nail Polish Models Contained Carcinogenic Substance Benzene and Prohibited Plasticizers”, CHOICE Magazine, Issue 483 (Chinese version only), and “Slime and Putty Toys May Contain Harmful Substances or Microorganisms”, CHOICE Magazine, Issue 514 (Chinese version only).
Luncheon meat Are you consuming veterinary drugs at the same time? People are generally very vigilant when it comes to antibiotics, but they may not know that antibiotics exist in the luncheon meat they eat! Pig farms sometimes add antibiotics and other veterinary drugs in the pig feeds to prevent diseases. These veterinary drugs may remain and become part of the luncheon meat. About 3 to 6% of the population are allergic to sulfonamide antibiotics (sulfadimidine), and may suffer from symptoms like rash and swollen face, mouth and tongue. Besides, risks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria surviving in human bodies may also increase. Among the 25 samples of luncheon meat tested by the Consumer Council (or the “Council”), 1 sample was detected with sulfadimidine at 199.3μg/kg. The drug can´t be decomposed even when put in boiling water at 100 ºC for 2 hours, which gives rise to health concerns. "Low sodium" – fact or just another advertising gimmick? People nowadays are becoming more health-conscious. It is widely known that excessive sodium intake raises the risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Therefore, more and more canned foods, advertising “low sodium", have emerged in the market. But how many of them really live up to their claims? During the production process, adding a large amount of salt can help in extracting myosin from the meat, which can improve the binding and emulsion-forming properties of the meat mixture. However, excessive sodium intake can bring health issues. According to the definition of the UK´s Food Standards Agency (FSA), food containing more than 600 mg of sodium per 100 grams (600mg/100g) is considered “high sodium”. When measured against this standard, most canned processed meats are high in sodium. In Hong Kong, some luncheon meats are advertised as "less sodium" but how far could they meet the claim? If you want to find out which model is healthier, please refer to the article, “Luncheon Meat and Sausages with High Sodium and Fat Contents are Harmful. Antibiotics Found in 1 Sample”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 488 (Chinese version only). Ingredients are equally important! Read the nutrition labels carefully. In addition to assessing the nutrition value, consumers should also pay attention to the ingredients and check if there are additives that shouldn’t be there. Corn starch, potato starch, and milk protein are normally added as binding agent and for water retention, thus delivering a smoother texture. Consumers should, however, watch out for “strange-looking” ingredients. Overall, it is better not to consume too much processed meat. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogens to humans in 2015. There has been ample evidence showing that processed meat can lead to cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Even though consumers are now staying at home more often, they should refrain from consuming too much processed meat. Canned fish Sardines and tunas contain heavy metal contaminants Want to eat something less “heavy”? Is canned fish a good choice? The Council previously conducted a test and found that some canned fish contained heavy metals. But these heavy metals did not come from the metal cans, but actually from the fish! Heavy metal residuals may have occurred naturally in the environment or come from industrial waste, and have entered the air, soil and water system via different channels. After being ingested, they end up accumulated inside the fish. Larger predatory fish tend to accumulate more as they prey on smaller fish which also have these residuals. When humans consume these fishes, they will also ingest the heavy metals, which will then accumulate in the bodies causing health issues. Among the many types of heavy metals, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead are the more commonly found metals which are harmful to human bodies. Because sardines and tunas are both sea fish, their heavy metal levels can be largely affected by the environment of the origins. The Council tested a variety of canned fish, and 90% of the sardine samples were found to contain cadmium. Excessive intake of cadmium may lead to chronic poisoning in kidneys. 7 sardine samples from Morocco had cadmium level at ≥ 50% of the maximum limit as stipulated in the Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) (Amendment) Regulation 2018 with effect from 1 November 2020. This suggested that the ocean around Morocco might be quite polluted. In addition, 90% of the tuna samples were found to have methylmercury. Excessive intake of methylmercury may affect the brain development of fetuses and toddlers, leading to a decrease in intelligence. Parents should be very careful! Fish in a “can” can also have good nutrition value? Canned foods can also be rich in nutrients! Despite being processed at high temperature, most canned fish can still retain their nutrients. When cooked properly, you can turn them into delicious dishes. Apart from benefiting from the fish’s own nutrition content, consumers can also increase their calcium intake by eating the fish bones which have been softened (and made edible) by the high-temperature and high-pressure production process. From the test samples, canned dace were found to have higher calcium level, which can help the development of teeth and bones and prevent osteoporosis. However, many canned dace have high sodium content, so they should be consumed in moderation to avoid risks of hypertension, stroke, or cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the cardiovascular system and help prevent heart disease and stroke. Finally, if you want to reduce the sodium intake, then avoid consuming the oil or sauce that the fish are canned in. The Council tested 46 canned fish samples. If you want to find out more from the results on food safety and nutrition value, please refer to the article, “Metal Contaminants, Carcinogens and Nutrition Value of Canned Dace, Sardines and Tunas”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 525 (Chinese version only). Instant noodles Behind the convenience, watch out for the sodium intake! It´s difficult to resist a bowl of hot and mouth-watering cup noodles when one is hungry, and it only takes a few minutes to make. Notwithstanding the convenience, consumers should not overlook the sodium level of instant noodles. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that an average adult should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. The Consumer Council tested 10 pre-packaged cup / bowl noodles. The 3 samples with the highest sodium content were found to contain 3,150 mg, 2,577 mg, and 2,244 mg sodium, respectively. Consuming just 1 bowl will already exceed the daily sodium intake limit, which is insane. For more information and find out whether your favorite cup noodles fall into the “evil” list, please refer to the article, “Beware of Your Sodium Intake! 76 Asian Soup Noodles Exceeded Daily Intake Limit”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 496. (Chinese version only). Try these health tips We know it is hard to “part” with your favorite instant noodles. If consumers want to have a healthier way of eating instant noodles, just remember the following “1-2-3”: 1: Cut down the amount of seasoning and sauce poured into the noodles. Only add bit by bit if you want to intensify the taste; 2: Don’t drink the soup which is loaded with sodium; and 3: Read the nutrition labels and pay attention to the calorie level and sodium content. Food delivery App Don’t want to go out to eat and not into the canned foods at home? Takeaway foods can be a good alternative. The following 2 cases have highlighted areas that consumers may have easily overlooked. Have you got similar experience? Case 1: Time was out and order was cancelled Are you aware of the time restrictions attached to self-pickup? Although not being prompted at the time of ordering, some food delivery platforms have set out terms and conditions which require customers to collect their foods within a time limit, and failure to do so will lead to cancellation of orders without any refund. If you opt for the self-pickup service and cannot collect the foods in time, you should contact the restaurants to try to extend the time. Otherwise, you may go all the way for nothing, but disappointment. Case 2: Incorrectly filled address A customer once waited for 1.5 hours and finally received a call from a delivery staff saying that his delivery address was outside of the service scope, and as such his orders could not be delivered. The customer was puzzled as he thought the restaurant was shortlisted according to his address input. Actually, he made a mistake by only inputting the district into the address field. And the rest of the address details, including real estate name and number were inputted in the field of “Delivery Notes”. Furthermore, the delivery staff had not been able to contact him on phone, so both the customer and the delivery staff had wasted a lot of time in “waiting”. Consumers are reminded to check and verify their address details and check if they are being inputted in the correct fields. For consumers who order takeaway foods at work as well as at home, they should pay extra attention not to mix up the addresses. To find out how these cases were resolved and other areas concerning food deliveries, please refer to the article, “Food Delivery Has Become the New Normal. Beware of the Terms and Conditions to Avoid Disputes”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 525. (Chinese version only). Consumers are also asked to be environmental conscious and avoid the use of disposable cutleries. Nowadays, many food delivery platforms provide “opt-out” option for cutleries. Consumers are urged to use their own cutleries and make a contribution to our planet earth.