Potato chip imports containing the banned carcinogenic additive potassium bromate were halted after failing to pass quarantine in July, the importer in Zhuhai told China Daily yesterday.
If such chips from the United States make their way to store shelves, they were probably brought in from unauthorized importers, a producer representative said.
The Department of Import and Export Food Safety under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine recently published a list of unqualified food and cosmetic products imported by China in July and August. The list includes three batches of potato chips imported by Zhuhai Duty Free Enterprises Group.
A 95-kg shipment of Pringles potato chips made by US-based Procter & Gamble (P&G) and two batches of potato chips from Japan-based Bourbon were found to contain the additive on July 10 and July 27, respectively.
"We destroyed all the potato chips in stock and immediately stopped their importation in July, when we were notified the products were unsafe," a company spokesman surnamed Gu said.
The products were sold in duty-free shops run by the company in Zhuhai before the notification and were quickly pulled from shelves, he said. But sales figures prior to the products' removal from shelves were unavailable.
P&G China also expressed regret over the incident and reiterated that Pringles potato chips sold in mainland markets - solely produced by the only authorized factory, based in Fujian Province - are safe.
It has stopped importing potato chips through its sole authorized importer, a Guangzhou-based trade company, since March, external relations manager of P&G China Charles Zhang told China Daily yesterday.
"We have strictly abided by the Chinese authorities' guidelines against the use of potassium bromate in our mainland factory," Zhang said. "What we imported before did not contain the substance, because they were sourced from a P&G factory in Belgium, and EU food safety criteria are quite similar to China's."
China banned the use of potassium bromate in flour in 2005, as did several Western countries, including the European Union, Australia and New Zealand. It is still permitted in the US and Japan.
Zhang explained that Pringles potato chips imported from the US and sold in some mainland markets have nothing to do with his company, which could be supplied by parallel importers the company never authorized.
Potassium bromate is an additive usually used in bread to enhance taste. Studies show excessive potassium bromate could harm human's central nervous systems, blood and kidneys, in addition to being carcinogenic.
(China Daily December 7, 2007)