Often times, a health study comes out with a conclusion that is either a.) not surprising at all (like that sports drinks are useless) or b.) kind of a bummer (like that bananas are covered in crab juice), but not life-ruining. But there is a rare third category, in which a scientific study is so heartbreakingly awful that I just want to cry. Like this one, that found that the tapioca “pearls” found in bubble tea are full of potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Readers, I am officially devastated.
Bubble tea, which is really more like a milky, creamy, wonderful smoothie-esque drink, is Taiwanese of origin, but gained a lot of popularity here at home on college campuses within the last 10 years. Now, it’s hard to walk down an urban street near a university and not find a place that sells it. But apparently, it’s not just sugary and full of empty calories (which I’d already decided that I was OK with, because I LOVE IT), it’s also full of carcinogens. That, I can’t quite excuse.
The bubbles, it seems, contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are usually used for industrial purposes, not in edible creations. Probably because multiple respectable studies have indicated that they have a strong link to cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Doctors also warn that the bubbles could be a choking hazards, but really, so are any child-windpipe-sized nubbins. That part is less surprising. Also, I am an grown-ass woman, so I’m not terribly concerned about choking.
But the cancer part? That concerns me. Like I said, I love bubble tea. I love the chewy tapioca balls (some people hate them. Those people have no souls). I love the unusual flavors it comes in. I love having a refreshing, cold drink on a hot afternoon that also gives me something to munch on. Which is why this study makes me really sad.
Of course, warnings about the potentially-hazardous chemicals are only being released in the UK and Germany, where food safety and consumer protection laws are stronger. Here in the US, it’s likely that bubble tea will be considered perfectly safe, because the FDA hates to outlaw anything–like, for example, BPA, which remains totally legal.
But I, personally, will be cutting back on my already-rare bubble tea treats. Which is, as I said, heartbreaking.
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