Tougher reg­u­la­tion urged on use of ad­di­tives

Mis­giv­ings still ex­ist so ex­perts in­sist pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ur­gently needed

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - ByWANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ex­perts are call­ing for tougher reg­u­la­tion of the use of ad­di­tives in food, but they also say there should be more pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion on the sub­stances, which ac­tu­ally play an im­por­tant role in the coun­try’s food pro­duc­tion in­dus­try.

“I am of­ten asked ‘is any­thing com­pletely safe to eat?’,” says Chen Jun­shi, chief ad­viser at the Cen­ter for Food Safety Risk As­sess­ment.

“Peo­ple are gen­uinely wor­ried about the use of too many food ad­di­tives. Yes, peo­ple should be wary of food prod­ucts which claim ‘no col­or­ings, no preser­va­tives’ on the pack­ag­ing, but there is ac­tu­ally a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing sur­round­ing food ad­di­tives, which has to be sorted,” says Chen.

Ex­perts point out that some ad­di­tives are of­ten cru­cial to the man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses of some food, not only in en­sur­ing fla­vor or color, but also in the preser­va­tion of the prod­ucts.

The Chi­nese food in­dus­try cur­rently uses around 2,000 dif­fer­ent kinds of food ad­di­tives across 20 cat­e­gories, with bleach­ing and bulk­ing agents among the most common.

Sun Baoguo, an aca­demi­cian with the Chi­nese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing, who is also pres­i­dent of Beijing Tech­nol­ogy and Business Univer­sity, says nearly all food prod­ucts ac­tu­ally con­tain ad­di­tives, but the key is­sue is how to use them prop­erly.

“Some food pro­duc­ers have been guilty of us­ing ex­ces­sive amounts of ad­di­tives or even us­ing banned sub­stances to lower their pro­duc­tion costs, and those are the ones which have caused a lot of the re­cent panic we have seen,” says Sun.

“In many cases, it’s how the ad­di­tives are be­ing used which is wrong, not the ad­di­tives them­selves — and this had led to ad­di­tives prac­ti­cally be­ing de­mo­nized by many con­sumers.”

Ac­cord­ing

to

one

re­cent on­line survey pub­lished in the China Youth Daily, 65 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they be­lieved food ad­di­tives were un­healthy, with 42 per­cent call­ing for them to be banned al­to­gether.

The lat­est high-pro­file scan­dal in­volv­ing China’s food in­dus­try sur­faced last month when po­lice work­ing across six prov­inces, in­clud­ing Shan­dong, He­nan and Hubei, re­vealed they had un­cov­ered the pro­duc­tion and sales of dried bean curd sticks tainted with in­dus­trial ma­te­ri­als.

The au­thor­i­ties closed 17 sites pro­duc­ing the sticks, ar­rested 41 peo­ple and seized 105 metric tons of what turned out to be poi­sonous ma­te­rial.

Another re­cent case in­volved a steamed-bun seller in Lishui of Zhe­jiang prov­ince, who was jailed for 10 months, fined 80,000 yuan ($12,900) and banned from sell­ing food for two years, after us­ing ex­ces­sive amount of ad­di­tives to make his buns whiter and softer.

De­spite wel­com­ing such ac­tions, ex­perts say the only way to fully re­store peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in food ad­di­tives and their use is to in­tro­duce stricter stan­dards and su­per­vi­sion of the food pro­cess­ing in­dus­try.

A majority of re­spon­dents in the China Youth Daily survey agreed the gov­ern­ment should step up its ef­forts on clamp­ing down on il­le­gal ad­di­tive use.

“Stricter man­age­ment and su­per­vi­sion of the en­tire pro­duc­tion process from orig­i­nal sourc­ing to pro­cess­ing through to sup­ply­ing would cer­tainly help re­duce any risk to food safety,” says Chen.

Dur­ing the ple­nary ses­sion of Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress in­March, Premier Li Ke­qiang said the tight­est pos­si­ble su­per­vi­sion lev­els should be in­tro­duced right across the en­tire food pro­duc­tion chain, and that any of­fend­ers should be given the most se­vere pun­ish­ments.

The Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has al­ready said it has been work­ing on mak­ing im­prove­ments to the coun­try’s food safety sys­tem, to bring it fully in line with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

New com­pul­sory na­tional rules on food safety stan­dards are now ex­pected to be pub­lished in 2015, along with a web­site which will of­fer the pub­lic in­for­ma­tion on food ad­di­tives and how they are used.

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