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May 11, 2012

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Old sunflower seeds said mixed with new

A famous brand of sunflower seeds popular among locals is reported to be mixing substandard, years-old seeds with the fresh seeds, posing health risks to consumers.

The seeds are sold in Shanghai markets, and officials from the Shanghai Industry and Commerce Bureau said yesterday they would look into the case.

According to China Business News, one of the raw sunflower seed suppliers to Anhui Province-based Qiaqia Food Co revealed that it sold substandard raw seeds stored for many years to Qiaqia. The company then mixed the old seeds with fresh ones and sold packs across the country, Liu Yuan, an official with the supplier, told the newspaper.

"Qiaqia Food has established many warehouses across the country. Although the company has made certain regulations on raw seed purchasing, the rules are not strictly enforced," Liu told the newspaper. "Old, substandard raw seeds taste and look worse than new seeds and they are more easily mildewed, but the company purchases them simply because they are cheaper."

Fresh new seeds cost at least 3 yuan (43 US cents) per 500 grams, while substandard ones go for at most 2.8 yuan per 500 grams, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the supplier told the newspaper that some purchasing staff workers with the company took bribes from suppliers so they would turn a blind eye to low-quality raw seeds.

Industry insiders who were not named told the newspaper that it is common for roasted seed producers to mix substandard raw seeds with fresh ones. There are no laws to regulate the standards of these raw materials.

"Only some big companies have rules on raw seed purchasing; some smaller black mills don't even have any rules," Liu said.

He said small companies even put additives into very low-quality seeds, using the strong flavor to cover the mildew.

The cheaper products from the small companies are pressuring big companies, forcing them to lower their own quality to compete on prices, he said.

Weng Yangyang, a member of the China Food Industry Committee, told the newspaper that no matter how Qiaqia Food purchased substandard seeds or low-quality ones, it would be fine as long as the company's products passed the national standards.

So far the company hasn't responded to the report. It suspended its stock from trading, however, pending its response.


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