Tapioca pearls in bubble tea contain carcinogens: German study

German health authorities and researchers have come out swinging recently against the Taiwanese drink bubble tea, warning that the popular dessert beverage presents a choking hazard to children and may contain cancer-causing chemicals.

The warnings, released separately, come as Europe, and Germany in particular, begin to catch on to the bubble tea trend which has already swept major urban centers in North America to become a popular dessert beverage.

After analyzing the tapioca balls which make up the ‘bubbles' in the drink, researchers from the University Hospital Aachen, for instance, found that the pearls contained polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs such as styrene, acetophenone, and brominated substances, chemicals that shouldn't be in food at all, researchers told German paper The Local.

Samples were taken from an unnamed chain in Mönchengladbach, in northwest Germany and the tapioca balls were made in Taiwan.

The study comes on the heels of a public health warning from the country's German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment earlier this month, which warned that the tapioca balls also present a choking risk to children.

"Especially with children aged up to four years, there is a risk of foreign objects accidentally entering the lungs," said Dr. Andreas Hensel in a statement.  "And that is precisely what can happen when the bubbles are sucked up through a straw."

Meanwhile, the institute says no bubble tea-related accidents have yet been reported.


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