A nationwide inspection of the food-production industry has uncovered the use
of a wide range of illegal ingredients in the processing of foodstuffs, the top
quality watchdog said Tuesday.
Industrial raw materials, such as dyes, mineral oils, paraffin wax,
formaldehyde and the carcinogenic malachite green, have been used in the
production of flour, candy, pickles, biscuits, black fungus, melon seeds, bean
curd and seafood.
Some processors also use recycled or expired food in their operations,
according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
"These are not isolated cases," Han Yi, director of the administration's
quality control and inspection department, said at a press conference.
He said most of the cases involved small, unlicensed food-processing plants
employing less than 10 people. All plants caught engaging in illegal practices
have been shut down, he added.
Administration figures show that about 75 percent of the 1 million
food-processing plants in the country are small and privately owned.
Preliminary figures released yesterday show that since December, when the
nationwide inspection was launched, quality inspectors have seized 200 million
yuan ($26 million) worth of contaminated or substandard foodstuffs.
At least 180 food plants have been shut down, and 37 had their licenses
revoked. Eleven cases have been handed over to judicial organs.
Han said the inspection, which has been focusing on widely consumed
foodstuffs, like wine, meat, milk, beverages, soy sauce and cooking oil, is not
finished. Rural areas and the suburbs are still considered key areas for
Scandals involving substandard food were the subject of many media reports
last year. Red-yolk salted duck eggs contaminated with an industrial dye and
turbot fish containing carcinogenic residue were two of the more high-profile
The issue burst into the international spotlight this year after
melamine-contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein exported from China tainted
pet food in North America.
Han said the administration always puts food safety first and had shown no
mercy to violators.
Both the Food Hygiene Law and the Criminal Law ban the use of chemical
ingredients or harmful substance in food production. Violators who cause serious
poisoning or death face sentences of at least 10 years in jail or even death.
However, Ye Zhihua, a senior researcher of quality standards and testing
technology with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, worried that the
country's many small food plants and inadequate number of enforcement officers
could hamper the inspection.
Ye said such small businesses, which usually have poor management and
sanitary conditions, are scattered across the country, making supervision