Toxic ‘Sikor’ Cubes Seized from Streets of Birmingham

By on 26/07/2011 in News

Nearly 400kg of imported cubes of baked clay from Bangladesh, which are traditionally eaten by some African and Asian women during pregnancy, have today been seized from shelves across Birmingham by Trading Standards officers, after tests revealed them to contain high levels of lead and traces of arsenic.

The move comes after laboratory tests carried out by Birmingham City Council over the weekend revealed that samples of the clay, known as sikor, bought from various shops last week all contained potentially dangerous levels of lead.  Exposure to lead by pregnant women, infants or children poses a risk to the development of the brain and other illnesses.

Lead levels in all the samples were found to be 24mg per KG, 16 times higher than the acceptable level for human consumption in the UK.

Following a series of raids this morning on individual shops, trading standards officers confiscated stock and gained information which lead them to a wholesale importer in the Soho Hill Road area.

After a search of the premises officers discovered 33 boxes containing over 375kg of sikor cubes, all of which were seized and taken away.

(Pictures all courtesy of Mikey Jones, Caters News)

In many parts of the world such as Africa and Asia eating baked clay is an ancient tradition among pregnant women suffering from cravings, a practice known as 'geophagy' and sikor tablets are fairly common in many Asian stores throughout the UK.

Typically much of the sikor on sale within the UK comes in unmarked packaging with none of the usual hygiene, safety compliance or ingredient information normally required on food/medicine products.

This means that little of the material can be proven to have gone through the usual processes required to be judged fit for human consumption, and may have come from sources of raw clay which were polluted. 

Cllr Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, at Birmingham City Council, said: “The results of our test purchases are very concerning. In order to protect the health of consumers within the city, and especially their unborn children, we had no choice but to act decisively to remove as much of this product as possible from the city's shelves.

“We'd now urge all shopkeepers and members of the Asian community to heed our warning and stay away from any such products which do not carry official authentication proving that they are safe to eat.”

Jim Mcmanus, Joint Director of Public Health for Birmingham, said: “This substance is clearly unsafe for consumption and needs removing from sale. While some societies have a tradition for eating clay, this clearly has to be done within a safe environment with the food going through all the proper safety measures.

“We have a duty to protect all consumers within the city and simply can not allow a substance so potentially dangerous to both mother and unborn child to remain on the shelves.”

 Birmingham City Council Trading Standards are working with healthcare professionals to make sure that consumers are made aware of the dangers.

The Food Standards Agency is advising pregnant women not to eat the clay.  If you have consumed these products and have any concerns you should speak to your doctor or medical professional.

ENDS

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