Chinese find cancer-causing fungi in food

2011-12-30 22:04

Shanghai - Chinese food safety regulators in the southern city of Shenzhen have found carcinogenic mildew in peanuts and cooking oil, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

The cancer-causing substance, called aflatoxin, triggered public concern this week after milk giant Mengniu Dairy said last weekend its Sichuan plant had destroyed products found by a government quality watchdog to contain it.

Aflatoxin occurs naturally in the environment and is produced by certain common types of fungi. It can cause severe liver damage, including liver cancer.

Xinhua reported that the Shenzhen market supervision bureau had said it found up to 4.3 times of the permitted level of aflatoxin in peanuts sold in two supermarkets and one frozen food store, and up to four times the allowed level of aflatoxin in cooking oil in four restaurants.

Fungi and the aflatoxin they produce can infect crops before harvest or during harvesting and storage. The tainted crops then enter the foodchain either directly, or indirectly via animal feed.

On Thursday, food safety officials recalled cooking oil produced by three companies in the southern Guangdong province because they may contain excessive levels of aflatoxin.

These incidents are the latest in a string of safety scandals to hit China's food industry in recent years.

In 2008, at least six children died and nearly 300 000 became ill in China from drinking powdered milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical added to low-quality or diluted milk to give misleadingly high protein readings.

  • Anthony - 2011-12-31 00:17

    Aflatoxins are a symptom of poor grain / legume storage practice and can easily be rectified with correct drying and ventilation procedures. Can happen anywhere in the world, why point a finger at the Chinese when a large percentage of Africa's crops go to waste because of the same problems. Call me, I can help!!

  • Chaapo - 2011-12-31 02:09

    You eat food from China at your own risk.

  • colin.dovey - 2011-12-31 07:21

    Virtually all sources of commercial peanut butter in the United States contain minute quantities of aflatoxin but it is usually far below the United States Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommended safe level.

  • Starlight3 - 2011-12-31 07:41

    Aflotoxin can also be carried over into milk by feeding cattle with mouldy hay. As a Health Professional it was part of my job to sample peanut-butter for this toxin as well. The results were frightening, and thankfully this now appears to have been sorted out!

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2011-12-31 14:16

    The question here is did the manufacturers know about the problem and just ignore it hoping to get away with it. It is hard to believe that the companies responsible were not aware, it is after all their business. How long have they actually got away with it before government inspectors came around to test the produce. It happens all over the world that companies will put profits above caring for people, not only in China, even though the consequences are going to be pretty harsh for those that were guilty of this negligence. The sad thing is that even the death penalty (as what happened to baby-food lot) does not seem to stem the greed.

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