Why Is Boba Tea Banned In Germany

Bubble Tea to-go

March 28, 2022

Bubble tea (also known as “black pearl tea” or “boba tea”), which was invented in the 1980s, is a cherished Taiwanese staple. Boba tea has risen in popularity in Asia and throughout the world over the years. This bizarre mixture appears to have piqued the interest of the ordinary young adolescent due to its array of colors, flavors, and textures.

Designed specifically for the teenage market, the drink has acquired great popularity in Europe and the United States. It shows no signs of slowing down, with new Bubble stores popping up on every street corner worldwide. According to Allied Industry Research, the European bubble tea market is worth more than $300 million and is expanding at a rate of 9 percent per year.

Tapioca Pearls

Boba tea is made out of black tea, milk, ice, and chewy tapioca pearls, all shaken together in a martini style. The pearls are produced from tapioca starch, an extract of the South American cassava plant that arrived in Taiwan from Brazil via Southeast Asia during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. Tapioca pearls are white, rigid, and tasteless before being cooked within large, boiling vats and soaked in sugary caramelized syrup for hours, ultimately transforming into the black, springy tapioca pearls we know and slurp.

Does Boba Tea contain carcinogens?

Boba is unlikely to contain carcinogens or chemicals that cause cancer. Nonetheless, in 2012, several news sites reported on a German study in which researchers claimed that tapioca pearls from a bubble tea chain included chemicals such as styrene and acetophenone.

They tried nine different types of bubble tea from the Mönchengladbach branch of a significant bubble tea serving business. The scientists discovered compounds in these samples that can be harmful to one’s health and are typically prohibited in food and beverage applications. According to the experts involved, the detected compounds should not be present in any items for human consumption.

The Rhine-Westfalian Technical University’s Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine stated that the chemicals detected are suspected of raising the risk of cancer and allergies. They discovered traces of styrene, acetophenone, and bromide in the beverages’ chewy balls or ‘bubbles.’ Because their use in food and beverages is prohibited, there are no minimum allowable limits for these substances. Scientists suspect they were introduced into bubble teas due to unsanitary methods employed to produce fragrance enhancers.

The Aachen team found the compounds by utilizing technology designed to evaluate cosmetic goods for allergies. The equipment was made by the Mönchengladbach-based company Leco. This is the first time the technology has been utilized for food testing.

The scientists discovered the toxic chemicals in all types of bubble tea examined; the ‘bubbles’ were acquired from a Taiwanese producer. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung (23rd August 2012), the German food importer Kreyenhop & Kluge has temporarily blocked further sales of the ‘bubbles’: “We do not presume that our goods are implicated, but as long as the slightest danger remains, we have stopped sales of the balls” (rough translation taken from the original German statement).

Warning against Boba Tea

This isn’t the first time German authorities have issued a warning about the increasingly popular sweet drink. In August, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment cautioned that tapioca pearls “may enter into the respiratory system” of a child drinker under the age of five when sucked into the mouth with a straw. Bubble tea has become so popular in Germany that McDonald’s now offers it in all of its McCafe locations. Despite these health warnings from Germany, the bubble tea fad is fast spreading throughout the world.

German Consumer Minister Ilse Aigner has also proposed that consumer warnings for bubble tea be examined since the goods are rich in calories (leading to obesity), and there is a risk that young children would choke on the pea-sized ‘bubbles.’

In Taiwan, severe food and drink safety scandal involving the replacement of palm oil with the less expensive chemical DEHP as a clouding agent in beverages, fruit juices, sports drinks, tea, and jam occurred in May 2011. DEHP, commonly known as Dioctyl phthalate or DOP, is a favored plasticizer that gives PVC polymers flexibility. DEHP has been associated with developmental difficulties in children and producing cancer in animals due to its impact on hormones.

Free of carcinogens

Taiwanese bubble tea was confirmed to be carcinogen-free in the second set of testing done by German officials, according to Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to FDA authorities, the consumer protection office of North Rhine-Westphalia evaluated 84 Taiwanese beverage brands. Six samples of bubble tea, 34 samples of concentrated juice, and 44 samples of “popping boba,” a colorful transparent gummy ball holding flavored liquids that can be added to beverages, were examined, according to authorities. According to the FDA, the results showed that none of the goods included cancer-causing compounds such as styrene, acetophenone, brominated biphenyls, or biphenyl carbonates.

According to the researchers, the goods were also determined to be free of heavy metal contamination and other potentially harmful substances. The tests were conducted in response to claims in German media that Taiwanese bubble tea may contain carcinogens.

Teashop chain BoBoQ, a Taiwan-based maker of bubble tea drink components with over 100 franchise outlets in Germany, says the unfavorable press has hurt its company. Lai Ming-ching, the owner of the Berlin-based teashop chain BoBoQ and Possmei, refuted the claims at the time, adding that the firm wants to collect proof and may take legal action against the media sources who published “false reports” about BoBoQ’s goods.

Alternative to Tapioca Pearls

If you’re not a fan of the chewy tapioca pearls that usually accompany bubble tea after hearing this news, simply ask for tea without the Boba and enjoy an excellent beverage. However, consider adding a different topping if you still want anything other than tea, milk, and flavoring in your cup. Bubble tea businesses generally provide a range of toppings for your drink, such as grass jelly, coconut candy, fruit jam, popping Boba, and pudding.

Here are some healthy guidelines to keep in mind while buying bubble tea or pearl milk tea:

  • Request less or no sugar (including less flavored syrup and sweetened fruit purees).
  • As an alternative to non-dairy creamers, request fresh milk (ideally low-fat or skimmed).
  • Request plain bubble tea without the chewy tapioca pearls or milk.

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