Is Bubble Tea Safe
Bubble tea has become an incredibly popular drink around the world. However, some people are still skeptical about how safe boba is. There have been news reports about certain manufacturers using toxic chemicals and another story of undigested balls inside a 14-year-old girl’s stomach! So what is the truth about bubble tea? Is it safe to drink?
Bubble Tea ingredients made in Taiwan are now the safest they have ever been. They suffered a food scandal in 2012 and have since developed strict testing and food safety guidelines. The story of undigested boba balls stuck in a girl’s stomach is from Zhejiang Province in Western China and is a great reason to ensure that your bubble tea supplies all come from Taiwan, not China!
Boba Stuck in a Girls Stomach
In 2019 there was a news story of a young girl in China who went to the hospital after experiencing acute abdominal pain and constipation for five days. The doctor X-rayed her intestines and found hundreds of undigested tapioca pearls inside her stomach!
There are two important lessons to learn from this story:
The first is to chew your boba! Be sure to cook tapioca pearls thoroughly and to chew them before swallowing them.
The second is that you should only buy your bubble tea ingredients direct from Taiwan or from a supplier who gets their ingredients from Taiwan. Taiwan has a much better food safety record than China and has strict SGS guidelines for all food service providers.
Taiwan’s Food Safety Scandal
In May 2012, a devastating food scandal struck Taiwan’s food and beverage industry. Some drink producers were trying to save a few bucks by adding a carcinogenic chemical known as “plasticizer” or DEHP. This chemical is traditionally used to make plastic. Still, some shady drink manufacturers realized it could be used as a stabilizer and started putting it into many bottled drinks and syrups. Some of these drinks and syrups were exported to the US and Europe and promptly banned when word of the scandal leaked. The Taiwanese FDA has new stringent guidelines and testing procedures, making it harder for illicit manufacturers to get away with such practices. “Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration confirmed in September that in the second round of tests conducted by German authorities, Taiwanese bubble tea is free of cancer-causing chemicals.”
Skip ahead only two years, and the bubble tea community is rocked again by “Boba-Gate.” This time, malic acid was the culprit, directly affecting the delicious pearls that make bubble tea. Again, an unscrupulous manufacturer tried to cut corners and save a few dollars by mixing this with boba.
“Maleic acid is a dicarboxylic acid. It is mainly used as a detergent in surface cleaning! Maleic acid uses include sizing agents for the textile industry, photographic chemicals for quick-photo processing, making maleate salts in the pharmaceutical industry, dyeing auxiliary, and as an oil and fat preservative. It is also used for manufacturing polyester resins, pesticides, tartaric acid, and succinic acid!”
This industrial cleaner should not be near food. And it is despicable that anyone would try to profit by slowly poisoning massive groups of people. Unfortunately, this is a problem no matter where you are. From unsafe lead levels in toys from China, GMOs, and bleached Mcdonald’s hamburger meat to whatever they put in hot dogs. Your food, clothes, toys, etc., are only as safe as the agencies regulating them. So if you’re worried about what’s in your boba, make sure that you ask to see some proof of testing. Here is an example of a significant chain providing a certificate of testing by the SGS in Taiwan.
Once all the ingredients have been rigorously tested, Boba is probably the safest that it’s ever been. Big chains are unwilling to risk another controversy and now demand regular and proper testing on all ingredients.