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Higher lead levels allowed in food, supplements here

10 Oct 2014

Prof Ong Choon Nam, a toxicology expert at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) addressed the recent health scare over lead levels contained in a popular Chinese medicine.

Though the United States and European Union tend to have stricter standards with regards to the lead levels in food and health supplements, Prof Ong clarified that this does not mean Singapore's standards are unsafe. And as the science is evolving very rapidly, he highlighted the need for all countries to review their standards from time to time.

Prof Ong further suggested for the Singapore Government to make existing standards age-specific as toddlers, for example, would tolerate a much lower dose of lead than an adult. He said, “Toxicity depends on the dosage and concentration. This has to be considered.”

Singapore regulations permit higher levels of lead in health supplements and food ingredients compared to US and EU respectively. But HSA clarified that this is not a reason for concern since the absolute difference between these limits is actually minimal, due to the scale of measurement in parts per million. HSA explained that the lead limits for food are lower than for those in medicinal products as the intake of (these) is expected to be less than food.

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