Borax and boric acid
Borax, also known as sodium borate (Na2B4O7.10H2), and boric acid (H3BO3), is a colourless, salt-like substance that can also be a white powder.
Borax and boric acid have a number of legitimate applications and are widely used in manufacturing as detergents, water softeners and weak antiseptics.
It is also used to make fertilisers, pesticides, and is sometimes found in pharmaceuticals.
Some Asian cultures use Borax during food preparation as a firming agent, meat rub, preservative or tenderiser.
Borax should not be used in food
The Food Standards Code does not permit borax to be used in foods.
Sale and use of Borax as a food or food ingredient is not permitted in New South Wales and violates Australian poisons legislation.
Borax is a toxic substance and poses an unacceptable risk to human health when used in food.
Borax is sometimes sold as a food in Asian groceries and supermarkets.
Some retailers also have Borax for sale near or next to food so it is possible some consumers might mistake it as a food.
Selling Borax as a food is a breach of the law and poses a potentially serious health risk.
Borax poisoning symptoms
Some of the symptoms of Borax ingestion include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and red eyes.
Symptoms may appear 2 to 4 hours after ingesting Borax.
If you have ingested Borax, or come into contact with someone with these symptoms, you should call the NSW Poisons Information 24 hour hot line on 13 11 26 and seek immediate medial attention at your local doctor’s surgery or hospital.
If large amounts of Borax are consumed, acute kidney failure and death may result.
Avoid getting sick from Borax
Never eat Borax and never use it in food.
If you are a grocer or retailer, do not sell borax as a food ingredient and make sure you keep it well away and separate from other food items.
If you are preparing food for yourself, family and friends, for retail sale or for food service, do not use borax as a food ingredient.
If you find Borax packaging that has words or phrases suggesting it is a food – such as nutritional details or a nutritional information panel - contact the NSW Food Authority on 1300 552 406 or your local council.