China Tightens Food Safety Amid New Accusation

Amid concerns over food safety, China’s food and drug agency is defending itself against accusations of excessive lead in spirulina, a microalgae taken as a nutritional supplement. Lead ingestion can lead to defects in the nervous system and brain. The Associated Press reports:

The SFDA has struggled to recover its reputation since a former commissioner was executed in 2007 for taking bribes. A string of food and drug safety problems since then, from shoddy medicine to melamine-tainted milk formula that killed six babies in 2008, further eroded public trust in the regulators overseeing China’s food and drug safety.

The agency said it stands by the March 30 results of an inspection of more than a dozen spirulina brands that found only one containing excessive lead and arsenic. The problem brand was Conthealthy sold by the Xingfulai Pharmaceutical Group in Fujian province.

However, an internal SFDA document from February that was first reported last month by the official Xinhua News Agency had suggested contamination of Chinese spirulina was widespread and listed 13 brands suspected of having excessive lead, arsenic or mercury.

That internal report prompted Xinhua to order independent tests of spirulina and the news agency reported last month that six out of eight store-bought samples had excessive levels of lead, including one that exceeded national limits by 820 percent.

In response to these concerns, China is planning to remove 38 food additives from the market. China Daily adds:

Analysts said the targeted additives are used in many food products, including candies, cakes,and canned meat and fruit.

The food additives are mainly used for preserving freshness, and improving taste and appearance.

Most of the pigments to be withdrawn can be replaced by similar additives at lower prices,Wang Zhutian, a researcher from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, told China National Radio on Monday.

To further regulate the food industry, China is tightening regulations on food safety by banning people convicted of food safety crimes from investing or operating related businesses. Bloomberg reports:

The city will better regulate the use of edible additives in the catering industry, and crack down on the illegal use of inedible substances and mislabeling of production and sell-by dates, according to a draft amendment to food-safety regulations published on the municipal government’s website. Beijing’s government will seek the public’s opinion until April 25, it said in a statement dated April 6.

The rules reflect China’s efforts to improve regulation of the industry after a string of incidents related to tempered food, including tainted milk, added to public concern over food safety. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang has called for harsh punishments against violations and said the nation plans to establish a long-term mechanism this year to check food safety.

Food-related companies and operators whose licenses were previously revoked may see their ban extended by five years from three years currently, according to the draft amendment.


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