Got a forwarded message from my sister in Australia. It was concerning "fatt choi" (cantonese prononciation), a black hair-like mass that I personally have helped to sell in my father's grocery shop as a youth, and have personally consumed, especially on Chinese New Year, which incidentally is just around the corner this year.
Here is the forwarded message:
Hello Chinese friends,
HK group calls for total ban on fa cai
Jan 31, 2007
The Straits Times
HONG KONG - A GROUP of Hong Kong researchers has called for a total ban on the sale of fa cai - a hair-like sea moss that is widely consumed during Chinese New Year.
The team from the Chinese University's department of biochemistry said international research showed that the plant - known as Nostoc or black moss in English - not only has no nutritional value but has also been found to contain a toxic amino acid that could affect the normal functions of nerve cells.
Eating black moss could lead to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia. Eating black moss could lead to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia, Professor Chan King Ming of the team told the media on Monday, the Standard newspaper reported.
China banned all exports of black moss in 2000 after listing it as an endangered species.
But Hong Kong has yet to ban the sale of black moss, keeping alive a demand that has encouraged cultivation of the plant in the mainland, Prof Chan said.
Black moss is widely eaten in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, mainly because its Chinese name, fa cai, is homonymous with 'prosperity' in Cantonese and Mandarin.