'Tainted drinks not distributed'

By Li Yao (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-01 10:17
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'Tainted drinks not distributed'

Second case in one week heightens concern over contaminated products

Beijing - A tainted drink scandal is continuing to spill across the mainland with the discovery of a second contaminated product from Taiwan.

More than 200 cases of tainted asparagus juice, produced by Uni-President of Taiwan, were imported by merchants in Fujian province but were not distributed, said Yang Shou-cheng, mainland spokesman for Uni-President, a major beverage producer from Taiwan.

The juice was found to have been contaminated with DEHP, a plasticizer that makes plastic soft and pliable, and can affect hormone balances in young people.

Yang said the tainted beverage was not purchased through official importing procedures, and the vendors were informed of the contamination on May 28 and told to retain the product.

Yang added that the tainted product was made in Taiwan, and the products made by Uni-President on the mainland exclusively use local ingredients.

Last week, China's top quality watchdog announced that DEHP-contaminated cases of Yes Sports Drink from Taiwan had entered Shanghai in March. The products have since been taken off the shelf.

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Dong Jinshi, executive vice-president of the International Food Packaging Association, suspected more discoveries of DEHP-tainted products would follow.

Dong called for more forceful responses from government authorities and preemptive investigations of DEHP use in other products, such as milk tea, yogurt and other sports drink products, saying the damage would be immeasurable given the additive's harmfulness and the size of the Chinese market.

Peter Ben Embarek, food safety officer of the World Health Organization's China Office, said more products circulating in the mainland might appear on the DEHP-tainted list, but added that efforts to remove contaminated products was made more manageable because the products can be traced back along their production and distribution lines.

"Nobody yet has a complete picture of what products have used the harmful plasticizer and thus been tainted," he said, "because one single ingredient can be used in multiple products and the society becomes more susceptible to widespread health hazards."

He said the Chinese government has followed standard procedures in response to the crisis, and conducted investigations on a broader range of possibly contaminated items.

"The investigation should be done quickly and openly, and the findings should be shared with authorities in other countries," he said.

Taiwan's health authorities on Tuesday required companies to verify their products were free of six chemical plasticizers, including DEHP. Companies that failed to produce the required certification will have their products removed from the market.

The certificates are demanded for five categories of products: sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, fruit jams or syrups, and tablets or powders.

Hong Kong on Tuesday banned two Taiwan-made drinks, Speed sport drink and Speed lemon flavor, after tests showed they were tainted with excessive amounts of DEHP.

Taiwan earlier this month issued a major recall of products, including more than 460,000 bottles of sports drinks and fruit juice, over fears they were contaminated with DEHP.

Wang Ying and AFP contributed to this story.