Formalin, which is an aqueous version of formaldehyde, a gas that contains 37% of the weight found in formaldehyde. Due to its original gas nature, heating up formalin found in food will be able to turn the liquid formalin into a gas, evaporating it out of the food we consume. Upon experimentation, it is proven that levels of formalin decreased after going through a process of heating, although the formalin does not disappear completely. Different levels of formalin were found among the different brands of coconut milk investigated. Reasons why heat might not be a complete solution for the eradication of formalin may be due to the nature of formaldehyde that is 37% soluble in water, allowing the formalin to become a permanent part of the food, especially if the food is water-based, like the subject we tested on: coconut milk.
Another factor that was included in these experiments was sericin. Sericin is a protein surrounding fibroin, which has sticky layers that help the formation of a cocoon. Its uses can be traced back to ancient China, where sericin would be drank as a treatment for diabetes. It has great biomolecule potential, as it is antibacterial, UV resistant, oxidative resistant, and has moisturizing properties. Similar to formalin, it is water soluble, and has hydrophobic properties, meaning that it has properties to segregate water with other substances. This specific property found in sericin was the reason it was used in hopes that it would be able to first separate the water and the formalin, which then would make it possible for the formalin to be evaporated through heat. Results show that although sericin was able to further lessen the amounts of formalin, it was only possible for several coconut milk brands. Further investigation towards the manufacturing process of each brand would be necessary in order to discover the reason behind it.
Safety hazards and health issues relating to formalin have been continually on the rise around the world. Further laws should be implemented to ensure the safety of the citizens in Indonesia. The saying “we eat with our eyes first” should not be a valid reason for the consumption of formalin, as food preservation should not be done with chemicals found in household items such as adhesives, glue, pressed-wood products and coatings. Formalin found in food does not always provide obvious reactions for the consumers, which adds to the danger, as it will result in unforeseen long-term effects.
In this work, Kihana is investigating harmful substances in common Indonesian ingredients as she concern about the reported case of formalin found in local products such as instant noodles, processed meats and coconut milk.
Investigating Harmful Substances in Common Indonesian Ingredients