Food Safety Focus (62nd Issue, September 2011) – Food Incident Highlight
Nitrites in Blood-red Bird's Nest
Recently, high levels of nitrites were detected in blood-red bird's nest samples in the Mainland market. There were concerns that nitrites might have been added to bird's nest to produce the desirable red colour.
Bird's nest is made from secretions of Swiftlets' salivary glands and usually consumed as a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The reason for the red colour of blood-red bird's nest is not entirely clear.
Nitrites are not allowed to be added to bird's nest in Hong Kong , although it is known that they may exist naturally in bird's nest under certain conditions. Traders should source bird's nests from reliable suppliers and ensure all foods they sell or import are fit for human consumption. The common practice of soaking bird's nests for several hours, or even overnight, and washing them thoroughly with clean water can substantially reduce nitrite levels. Since nitrites are water soluble, The public should discard the water used for soaking bird's nest before cooking.
Blood-red bird's nest