McDonald's under pressure over chemical ingredients

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, July 8, 2010
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An online survey in China showed Thursday that three out of four people would no longer buy a McDonald's product as it reportedly contains two chemical additives that, if taken in excess, may cause nausea and vomiting.

The survey, run by a leading Chinese portal website, showed at 2 p.m. Thursday that 75.4 percent of 30,151 respondents "would definitely not" buy McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, while only 7.1 percent said the revelation would not stop them from buying the deep fried chicken pieces.

The survey came after recent reports that McNuggets sold in America contained dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent, and a petrol-based chemical called tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).

The survey's result seems a natural response in a country haunted by food safety scandals, as critics call for a more responsible attitude to be taken by food companies and food safety watchdogs.

"The Sudan Red incident suggests that even global giants would cross the line," said the Harbin Daily in a commentary, referring to that industrial dye Sudan Red found in products of a number of food companies in 2005, including mega food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The commentary went on to say food additives should be used more cautiously as there were always contradictions between industrial production and food safety.

On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Health urged food companies to only use food additives in accordance with laws and regulations, after the State Food and Drug Administration announced it would proceed with safety checks on Chinese McDonald's products.

McDonald's China division responded that the amount of the two chemical ingredients in Chinese McNuggets was within the limits set by the country's food additive standards.

It said dimethylpolysiloxane was used to prevent oil from foaming and TBHQ was a preservative for vegetable oil and animal fat.

However, it did not release the exact amount of the additives used.

Ding Chunming, a food science and engineering expert with the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, said "the government should require fast food chains such as McDonald's to specify food additives of their products, so that consumers could be more aware of what they are eating."

It's deja vu for Chinese consumers who just walked out of the shadow of the tainted milk scandal, which is said to have destroyed the credibility of China's dairy industry back in 2008.

Melamine, a chemical that can cause kidney stones and other ailments, was added to milk so that the milk showed a higher level of protein in tests. A large amount of milk powder products were contaminated by the chemical, causing the death of at least six children and sickening more than 300,000 others.

China launched a long-term campaign to crack down on making, selling and using illegal food additives in September 2009 -- three months after the country's Food Safety Law took effect.

In February, the State Council, China's Cabinet, set up a heavyweight food safety commission consisting of three vice premiers and a dozen minister-level officials.

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