By Binu Shrestha Kathmandu, Feb. 28: Whether as snack or meal, noodles feature prominently in the diet of an overwhelming majority of Nepali people. To enhance their taste, noodles are invariably accompanied by seasoning powder, which has been found to be adulterated with traces of lead, a toxic heavy meal, flouting the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standard of 0.0025 mg/kg. That is the outcome of the study carried out by Rabina Suwal, a TU student of Environmental Science who did the research as part of her Master’s thesis. Noodles become contaminated mainly when they come into contact with coloring agents and packaging substances, according to the study. While testing the amount of lead in the instant noodles sold in the local markets, hospitals and school canteens in Kathmandu, the research team collected 30 different samples of noodles manufactured by 15 different brands, including their respective seasoning powders, almost all of them were found to be containing lead amount ranging from 0.0022 to 0.0093 mg/kg. The highest concentration (0.0093 mg/kg) was found in Current noodles sample followed by Miss U noodle (0.0089mg/kg), while the lowest (0.0022mg/kg) was found in Jackpot noodle. Samples of Current noodle was collected from the hospital canteens where patients, doctors, nurses and others consume the noodle, whereas that of Miss U noodle was collected from the street shops (Chatpati), which are increasingly becoming popular among the youths and children alike. What’s more, the study also unveiled that the level of lead in the seasoning powder sample of Nano Gold noodle was 1.6981 mg/kg (68 times more than the WHO prescribed limit) and Rumpum was 0.2316 mg/kg (9 times more). Ram Charitra Sah, executive director of Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED) said that the result of the study would be made public. He added that even consuming noodles containing innocuous amount of lead might have detrimental impact if consumed frequently. Many food products laden with lead contents are available in the markets these days. As foods are increasingly processed with chemicals to enhance their taste in a bid to lure more and more consumers, lead, which is present in those chemicals, make its way to the food. On the one hand, processed food lack sufficient nutrition, which is lost during its processing, on the other, they are adulterated with toxic metals like lead. As a result, consumers are forced to face double whammy. So, it is important to assess the presence of lead in the instant noodles and their seasoning powder to determine if they are safe to consume for our health, Sah added. He further said that legal provisions in consumable items like labeling of expiry date and registration number should be strictly enforced and that noodles that contains lead content exceeding the limit should be banned from selling in sensitive places like school, college and hospital canteens. “Public awareness on the quality of food products, presence of heavy metals like lead in them and its pernicious effect on human body, along with the consumer rights should be raised if we are to tame the threat emanating from contaminated food,” said Sah.