UAE killer watermelon hoax: no HIV in summer fruit
Beware of the killer watermelon! (Photo courtesy of iCarli blog).
Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (Adfca) has asked people not to fall prey to rumors regarding food safety.
The advice came following a rumor that watermelons being imported from an Arab country are injected with HIV that causes AIDS.
Residents are advised to pay no heed to a malicious message, spread in the Abu Dhabi community through various channels, said an official at the Adfca,
The message, quoting a doctor at a prominent hospital in Saudi Arabia, was reported to Adfca.
“We could prove it false by conducting proper investigations,” a senior official told Gulf News on Wednesday. “It was in 2007 but the same rumor has resurfaced now,” said Mohammad Jalal Al Raisi, Director of Communication and Community Service at Adfca.
A common pattern about the rumors is they resurface after a few years although proven untrue by the authorities in the past, he said.
Rumors on food safety are not created as a joke or as the handiwork of mischief-makers but they originate from certain specific sources which have ulterior motives, he said.
“The emergence of numerous new communication channels, including social media, make their job easy so we try to tackle them at once before rumors cause any damage,” Al Raisi said.
Rumors generally originate from either businesses having hidden motives to promote their own products by discrediting other products in the market or anti-social elements who want to cause confusion in society. The authority conducts investigations and scientific tests to prove a rumor false, he said.
Regarding the watermelon rumor, the official immediately contacted the doctor in Saudi Arabia who was quoted in the message.
“He said he was not aware of it at all. The factual investigation proved it wrong still we go to the scientific information.”
The authority’s scientists made it clear that HIV cannot survive in watermelons.
“We publish these results through official channels to discredit the rumors.”
He urged residents not to believe such rumors, and to approach the authority on the toll free number 800 555 to ascertain the facts.
“You have to always ascertain the source of a message. Rumor-mongers even once used Adfca’s name to spread a message through BBM (BlackBerry messenger) though it was stopped at once,” he explained.
The authority issues alerts only through its official channels such as its website, its own social media pages and news media, he said.
Adfca confirmed that additives, including artificial sweeteners, are continuously studied and their health risks are evaluated. Their use is regulated through standards and specifications and they are not allowed to be used in children’s foods. Labels on food items are required to contain information about potential harm.
The official thanked customers for contacting the authority and assured them that any alerts would be publicized through the media and on its website. “We request people not to fall prey to rumors,” he said.
Apart from watermelons, the authority received reports on rumors about several products recently, such as cornflakes, Vietnamese fish, potato chips, citrus fruits, aluminium foil, Indomi and Maggi white noodles, energy drinks, chewing gum and aspartame.
Cornflakes have been subjected to several laboratory analyzes and found to be safe. No defects were found in the Vietnamese fish Basa.
The only item mentioned in the rumor on potato chips contains a coloring agent that is not allowed in the UAE as per the UAE specifications No. 23/2000.
Citrus fruits in general, and lemons in particular, have distinct preventive capacity because they contain a high quantity of concentrated citric acid so they don’t pose any risk.
About aluminium foil, around 14 per cent of aluminium produced globally is used for food packaging and cooking utensils and they do not cause any health hazards.
The normal use of aluminium does not pose any health risks within the proper range. In these normal circumstances, the concentration of aluminium in the body reaches 100mg per day (including aluminium content from other sources) and this is far less than the amount that could cause harm to the body.
Regarding Indomi and Maggi noodles, the analysis done by Adfca’s laboratory division confirmed that the additive E621 in it is a white crystalline substance soluble in water. It is used as a nutritional supplement or for desired flavours in most varieties of foods such as dry soups in its different shapes and forms.
The authority constantly monitors those food items rumored to be unsafe and energy drinks are among them. Adfca inspectors collect samples regularly and send them to laboratories to ascertain their safety.