Update, DOST Study: DOH Says Synthetic Acetic Acid in Vinegar ‘Not Necessarily Unsafe’
Updated, today, May 21, 2019:
(SDN) — Be careful what vinegar brand you put in your food!
It could be a matter of health, or a cause of degenerative diseases. Like Parkinson’s Disease. Even cancer.
This is because a study made by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has established that of the 17 vinegar brands tested in the Philippines, most of them were made from “synthetic” sources, not from natural sources. Thus, they are “fake” and adulterated vinegar.
And they are dangerous to peoples’ health.
Only three brands passed PNRI’s (DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute) nuclear-based analysis: 15 brands were manufactured using synthetic acetic acid, which is a raw material for making vinyl, among other products. Synthetic acetic acid is a by-product of petrochemicals.
PNRI, which conducted the tests, said these adulterated brands contain elements that can cause “various degenerative diseases.”
However, PNRI did not identify the brands that are deemed “fake” based on the agency’s “Isotope Studies” because naming them is against the law. Moreover, the tests were done using only codes for the products bought from across the country.
The risks remain if any of these vinegar brands is put in one’s food.
“One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products, which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section Head Raymond Sucgang said in a statement reaching SDN — Science and Digital News.
He said synthetic acetic acid should not be used for food. It is used in making vinyl for flooring for durability; a raw material for shellack product.
Synthetic acetic acid comes from fossil fuels, petrochemicals, a by-product in the production of diesel, oil, and such, he added.
“So, it (synthetic acetic acid) is very dirty to the point that it can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, and others,” said Sugcang in an exclusive interview on May 9.
“We Filipinos are fond of cooking ‘adobo’, ‘sawsawan,’ and ‘paksiw’. Sometimes (in my family), we used the synthetic vinegar without my knowledge. So, we buy our vinegar from Aklan.”
Vinegar which is very popular in cooking can be easily bought from groceries. Or, even in “sari-sari” (neighborhood) stores.
PNRI is the country’s agency for research and development (R&D) in nuclear energy’s peaceful uses, among other functions. It conducted the “Isotope Studies” on the vinegar brands.
Sugcang said that they submitted their findings on the 17 vinegar brands they put under nuclear testing using 360 samples (not 360 brands as reported in a national daily) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for appropriate action.
The PNRI has asked the FDA to formulate a national vinegar standard for the protection of Filipino consumers.
Findings on the 17 tested vinegar brands in the Philippines using Isotope-based analytical techniques showed that most of these products — 8 out of 10 — are synthetic and “fake” and not made from acetic acid derived from plants, the agency pointed out.
Sugcang said they took 360 samples from across the country to really determine if a vinegar brand being manufactured and sold in the country is using natural or synthetic sources. In that way, you can really say if it’s adulterated.
Obviously, synthetic acetic acid should not be the source for making vinegar.
“Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” Sugcang emphasized.
Sugcang pointed out that the three other vinegar brands tested were also using acetic acid but from plants, not from by-products of petrochemicals.
His team’s research project distinguishes vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.
A PNRI researcher conducts analysis of vinegar samples using the liquid scintillation counter. (Photo: DOST-PNRI)
PNRI explained the use of Isotope.
Isotope techniques help to detect the adulteration in vinegar through radiocarbon assay using carbon-14. The natural vinegar coming from plants will have traces of carbon with natural radioactivity, unlike those made from synthetic raw materials.
The agency said the results of the vinegar studies were submitted to the FDA, and hopefully serve as a basis for the development of a new Vinegar Standards of the Philippines.
Sugcang said the PNRI asked the FDA which is under the Department of Health (DOH) to embody in the proposed standard the used only of nuclear-based testing because it is the only technique that cannot be deceived.
He said the government allows any kind of testing. There are two kinds, he said, conventional testing and nuclear technology testing.
The problem is that conventional testing can be deceived, pointing out that putting more yeast on a synthetic acetic acid “suka” (vinegar) can come out through conventional analysis as “natural” because yeast is fermented.
“That’s the weakness of conventional testing,” he said.
“But nuclear-based testing,” Sugcang said, “cannot be deceived because what is being put to analysis is the vinegar’s carbon (element).”
He assured that,
“The radiocarbon assay is very accurate in detecting synthetic vinegar. All natural biogenic vinegar have 12 disintegrations per minute (Dpm) per gram Carbon (gC) or above that. Below that, vinegar is deemed to be adulterated. Synthetic vinegar have zero to 2 dpm/gC
PNRI researchers are also developing isotope analytical techniques for use in detecting synthetic by-products in other condiments such as ketchup, fish sauce or “patis,” and soy sauce or “toyo.”
State-of-the-art equipment such as the liquid scintillation counter and the isotope ratio mass spectrometer will be used to study the isotope composition of these condiments, particularly carbon-13 and nitrogen-15.
Meanwhile on Wikipedia, it says that, “Isotope analysis is the identification of isotopic signature, the abundance of certain stable isotopes and chemical elements within organic and inorganic compounds.”
In other developments at PNRI, the agency announced that it’s hosting a Balik Scientist who formerly worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.
The Filipino scientist, Dr. Thomas Neil Pascual, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) recently for the DOST’s Balik Scientist Program (BSP) with Arcilla at the PNRI compound in Diliman, Quezon City.
Pascual, the PNRI said, is “(a)n expert in nuclear medicine” and “will collaborate with PNRI under the national health R&D agenda in the field of nuclear and radiation applications in medicine.”
Dr. Carlo A. Arcilla, director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) affixes his signature on the MOA as Balik Scientist Dr. Thomas Neil Pascual smiles. The PNRI will host the returning scientist from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a project on nuclear medicine. (Photo: PNRI)
They inked the MOA at PNRI headquarters. PNRI will host Pascual who “who will collaborate with PNRI under the national health R&D (research and development) agenda in the field of nuclear medicine and radiation applications in medicine.”
PNRI’s hosting of Pascual is under the aegis of the DOST’s Balik Scientist Program (BSP) created in 1975. The BSP’s objective is to encourage Filipino experts, scientists and researchers based in foreign countries to come back to their homeland and contribute their expertise to the improvement of various fields and fields.
The Balik Scientist joined the IAEA, a partner of also of PNRI in many projects, in 2012 and handled capacity building projects in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.
“His pioneering work in nuclear medicine includes the establishment of the first nuclear medicine facility in Cambodia and the conduct of nuclear medicine training at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (Philippines),” the PNRI noted.
The Institute continues to open its services to customers from various sectors on the use of its nuclear analytical techniques for their products. PNRI’s analytical laboratories and services are certified under ISO 17025:2005 and under ISO 9001:2015. (SDN)