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In China, an ordinary day’s menu shows that Chinese people are eating too much of the toxic heavy metal, such as aluminium and potassium, with serious impacts on health and children development.

On June 16, the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) published China’s first major report on the problem, which found that almost a third of the population is ingesting more aluminium than is considered safe. The CFSA found aluminium levels exceeding the legal limit of 100 milligrammes (mg) per kilogrammes (kg) in 40% of cases (youtiao, the deep-fried dough sticks eaten at breakfast, breached the limit by 72%, steamed buns by 28%. Jellyfish contains unacceptable levels of the heavy metal; in fact excess aluminium was present in every single sample of jellyfish tested).

These additives are used to increase the speed at which steamed and baked bread products rise, as anti-caking agents in powdered or granulated products and as colourings in sugar-coatings.

The new regulations should greatly reduce the use of such additives in foodstuffs. But Ji Heli, secretary of the Shanghai Food Additives Trade Association, says this may not be a solution because it is very hard to control the hidden sources of aluminium that are everywhere.

Children are most at risk to aluminium exposure. Excess aluminium can harm the central nervous system; its impacts include developmental problems, such as the learning difficulties.

The good news is that you can bring aluminium intake under control, decreasing the consumption of some foods.

The new rules include, not a total ban on aluminium in some products like youtiao, cakes and batter, but just an upper limit of 100mg per kg.

At China’s annual parliamentary session, people’s representative Yao Juan, who is also head of research and development at yeast-manufacturer Angel Yeast, proposed that the government place a total ban on potassium alum and ammonium alum in food. It is important if the state could supervise all the small-scale producers, so avoiding a total ban. But if this is not possible, it is probably that standards will still bebreached.

One of the key points is if one does not use additives, the costs will increase significantly. The aluminium-free raising agent developed by Yao Juan’s company costs 6 yuan (US$1) per kilogramme, compared to just 1 yuan (US$0.16) for potassium alum.

Huang Xiantang, honorary president of the Zhejiang Food Additives Association, is worried because these cost differences could lead to an increase in use, as happened when bleaching agents were outlawed in flour production.


The gLAWcal Team

LIBEAC project

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(Source: China Dialogue)

This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.