Disposable chopsticks sold in Singapore contain ‘safe’ amounts of chemicals, but shouldn’t be reused

Twenty samples of disposable chopsticks were tested by the Consumers Association of Singapore and found to be safe for use.

Don’t reuse disposable chopsticks – while they might be safe for one-time use, they still contain harmful chemicals, according to a statement released today (Nov 7) from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

Referencing the results of its testing on 20 brands of disposable chopsticks bought from department stores, supermarkets and heartland shops across Singapore, CASE said disposable chopsticks sold here were safe for use as they contained less than 400mg/kg of sulphur dioxide residue.

This is well under the thresholds for sulphur dioxide residue set by the governments of China and Taiwan, which are 600 mg/kg and 500 mg/kg respectively. Singapore does not have its own standards regulating the acceptable amount of sulphur dioxide residue in disposable chopsticks, the statement said.

The Association did not test chopsticks provided at cooked food stalls and eateries, because these were being tested by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and had been found to have met safety standards, it added.

CASE results showed the brand with the least sulphur dioxide residue was Yanagi Chopstick, a Japanese import bought from Iroha Mart in Chinatown Point, with 7mg/kg of residue.

The brand with the highest sulphur dioxide residue was BM 40 Disposable Bamboo Chopstick CleanPac, bought from Super Budget Store on 19 Ghim Moh Road, with 364mg/kg of residue.

Sulphur dioxide, which is used as a bleaching agent and to prevent the growth of mould and pests on disposable chopsticks, is harmful to the respiratory system when present in large amounts. It also reacts easily with substances to form sulphurous acid and sulphate, which can cause breathing difficulties and skin allergies.

CASE advised consumers to avoid using disposable chopsticks that look too white or smell pungent, both indicators of chemical residue. It also reminded consumers that disposable chopsticks should not be reused.

According to the New Straits Times, a similar test on the sulphur dioxide in China-made disposable chopsticks was done by Malaysia’s health ministry in 2016, after concerns that the utensil contained unsafe amounts of the chemical.