In recent years, formaldehyde is reported to be widely used as a food preservative to increase the shelf life of fruits and fishes in tropical countries. Formaldehyde is detrimental to human health. Hence, use of formaldehyde as a food preservative is legally prohibited in most of the countries. To regulate formaldehyde application in foods, the regulatory bodies often conduct on-the-spot analytical tests to detect artificially added formaldehyde in food items. However, formaldehyde is ubiquitous in the environment and is present in many animal and plant species as a product of their normal metabolism. This naturally occurring formaldehyde may interfere in the detection of artificially added formaldehyde in foods. It is, therefore, important to study the concentration and formation mechanism of naturally occurring formaldehyde in food items.
In this study, the formaldehyde contents of food samples were determined using spectrophotometric technique. The naturally occurring formaldehyde contents of a wide range of fruit, vegetable, milk, poultry, mutton and meat samples were determined. In addition, formaldehyde contents of processed food items, such as: cooked beef and poultry, beverages, and commercially available UHT milk and powdered milk samples, were also assessed and analyzed. The naturally occurring formaldehyde contents of fruit, vegetable, milk, poultry, mutton and meat samples were found up to 58.3, 40.6, 5.2, 8.2, 15.2 and 8.5 ppm, respectively. Formaldehyde contents of commercially available UHT milk, powdered milk, beverages, cooked beef and poultry were found up to 187.7, 194.1, 21.7, 4.3 and 4.0 ppm, respectively. This study also analyzed the time dynamic behavior of the formation of endogenous formaldehyde content of banana (AAB genome of Musa spp.), mandarin and beef.
The experimental results provide a baseline data of natural occurring formaldehyde content of the analyzed food items. The formation behavior of formaldehyde may vary according to food types, storage temperature, storing time, and aging pattern of the food items. The findings of this study will be useful for the consumers, researchers, legal authorities and other stakeholders working on food safety and preservation.