wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  Straits Times Forum 2 Feb 07
'Fa cai' has many medicinal benefits and is important for CNY celebrations
Letter from Heng Cho Choon

Today Online 1 Feb 07
Fa cai meets local safety standards: AVA
Sheralyn Tay sheralyn@mediacorp.com.sg

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has given the all-clear for fa cai or black moss available in the local market. These products, it said, meet local safety requirements stipulated under current Food Regulations.

Its comments come a day after Hong Kong researchers called for a ban on the black hair-like sea moss that is a commonly eaten during Chinese New Year for luck because its name sounds the same as "prosperity" in Mandarin.

On Monday, the team from the Chinese University's department of biochemistry cited international research to claim that the algae has no nutritional value and contains a toxic amino acid that could lead to degenerative nerve diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia, because it contains a toxic amino acid called Beta Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA).

But an AVA spokesperson told Today that the link between these neurological diseases and the amino acid has not been established. Exposure to BMAA through dietary intake of fa cai has also not been proved.

"These findings still need to be verified and confirmed by further research and review," he said, adding that the consumption of fa cai locally is extremely low and not a cause for concern.

But the AVA will still closely monitor international developments in safety research studies on fa cai, and will take the appropriate actions to safeguard public health when necessary.

Since 2000, China has banned all exports of black moss after listing it as an endangered species but Hong Kong has yet to ban the sale of black moss.

Over-harvesting of black moss--which grows in the arid and semi-arid Mongolian Gobi Desert and Qinghai plateau--has led to widespread erosion and desertification of large areas in northern China.

Straits Times Forum 2 Feb 07
'Fa cai' has many medicinal benefits and is important for CNY celebrations
Letter from Heng Cho Choon

Your report 'HK group calls for total ban on fa cai' (ST, Jan 31) comes at a time when Chinese all over the world will be celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) in about a fortnight's time.

'Fa cai', or black moss, is usually eaten during the reunion dinner, the eve of CNY. Be that as it may, fa cai or Nostoc flagelliforme is still freely sold in our supermarkets and neighbourhood grocery shops in Singapore and Malaysia.

Black moss is a terrestrial cyanobacterium that has been and is still used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine for many years. 'Fa cai' grows very slowly in desert steppe and in arid regions of north-western China.

Extensive harvesting of this vegetable has damaged its natural distribution and further exploitation has been prohibited by the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

When fa cai is removed from the ground, the surface soil is no longer bound together and is vulnerable to natural erosion. Uncontrolled harvesting of this vegetable has resulted in the transformation of huge areas into dry deserts.

Most commercial fa cai sold in the marketplace is now adulterated with non-cellular strands of a starchy material.

Because of government restrictions on the sale of this vegetable, fa cai has been adulterated with non-nutritive fillers.

Black moss contains much protein, carbohydrates, some phosphorus, iron and potassium. It is recommended by Chinese sinsehs for people suffering from hypertension and chronic bronchitis. The iron content of black moss aids blood-cell production and therefore women suffering from mild anaemia after childbirth use black moss in cooking or make soup with it. The Chinese believe that black moss darkens the hair and that is why old women usually eat it to decelerate the greying of their hair.

Come Chinese New Year, the diehard Chinese will insist on eating black moss (which brings wealth), dried bean curd (which brings happiness), chicken (which brings happiness and a happy marriage) and eggs (which promote fertility).

No wonder our grandparents and parents will go all out to ensure that we have black moss for every celebration of CNY.

Illegal Trade in "Get Rich" Algae Expands Deserts
Story by Emma Graham-Harrison PlanetArk 24 Aug 06

Related articles on Global biodiversity and Singapore: wildlife trade
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com