Risk at a Glance

Potential Risks of Consuming Cekur Manis

Introduction

Cekur Manis or scientifically known as Sauropus androgynus is a popular leafy vegetable native to Southeast Asia. Also known as Ma Ni Cai (马尼菜), Sayur Manis, Sabah vegetable, Star Gooseberry, Katuk and Sweet Leaf, Cekur Manis is often eaten boiled or stir-fried. 

However, did you know that this vegetable can cause very serious lung disease if eaten raw or if it is not cooked properly? This is particularly concerning as Cekur Manis, if made into smoothies or juices, can easily result in one consuming large amounts unknowingly.

In this article, we will share tips for the safe preparation and consumption of Cekur Manis.

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Cekur Manis shrub. Photo courtesy of Pauline Tay, NParks Flora & Fauna Web

Food Safety Risks of consuming raw/uncooked Cekur Manis

Eating large amounts of raw Cekur Manis can cause a permanent lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, where the small airways in the lungs (bronchioles) are blocked by inflamed scar tissue. People affected have irreversible breathing difficulty, which can worsen with time and lead to death. This link was confirmed in Taiwan and Japan in the 1990-2000s, where young   women were affected by bronchiolitis obliterans, with some needing lung transplants. After an investigation, doctors discovered that those affected had consumed large amounts of raw Cekur Manis in smoothies, juices or salad as a weight-loss fad or to promote lactation after pregnancy. 

The exact reasons for Cekur Manis causing lung disease are still being studied by scientists, and their current understanding is that Cekur Manis contains certain chemicals that cause lung tissue to be inflamed and die. Nevertheless, scientists have found that Cekur Manis is safe for consumption if cooked thoroughly. 

Tips on safe preparation and consumption of cekur manis

  • Cook Cekur Manis thoroughly through boiling, steaming, stir-frying, baking or grilling 

  • Avoid eating Cekur Manis raw in any form, for example, as fresh leaves in salads, or processed without heat as smoothies.

  • Consume Cekur Manis in moderation and ensure a varied diet. 

  • Seek professional medical attention if you have consumed Cekur Manis raw and experience problems breathing or other symptoms such as drowsiness and constipation