According to a Thai Financial Post story published on Monday, the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand is urging people to thoroughly wash mushrooms before cooking them after finding that the food item is frequently soaked in formaldehyde before reaching consumers. Dr. Praphon Angtrakun, Deputy Secretary-General of the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA), revealed this past Friday that 3 percent of the 15,000 fresh food items his agency randomly tests are tainted with formaldehyde. The rate of detection is especially high in seafood. As for vegetable produce, straw mushrooms and termite mushrooms are of special concern. Praphon said that formaldehyde-laced produce can be identified if vegetables and other foodstuff don’t dry out or become shriveled after being put on display without the addition of moisture. With meat, identification can be made if the meat does not dry out after being put in the sun, a food preparation practice in some areas. He added that consumers should always wash or soak produce before cooking it. Reports indicate that formaldehyde is being used by mushroom growers in some countries to keep a species of fruit fly (Drosophila) from invading the mushrooms. A 2003 U.S. Department of Agriculture study on formaldehyde levels in raw shiitake mushrooms from China and the U.K. found that the levels observed were “the result of natural production” by this type of mushroom. However, cooking the mushrooms for at least six minutes caused a “significant reduction” in the formaldehyde, the study noted, leaving levels that were “unlikely to pose an appreciable risk to human health.” Formaldehyde is colorless, flammable and strong-smelling chemical that is used as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant and preservative in household products and mortuaries and medical labs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers formaldehyde to be a probable human carcinogen.