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December 1, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Pupil finds danger in mushrooms

AN experiment by a grade-six pupil in Beijing found that more than 90 percent of fresh mushrooms on the market were tainted with fluorescent brightener, a compound considered a potential cause of cancer, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

And his results were backed by microbiologist Gao Ruifang, of the China Agricultural University, who called the pupil's method 100 percent reliable. But the Beijing Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said the experiment and the results were "not scientific."

Zhang Hao decided to carry out tests on mushrooms after he heard some sellers might have been dipping mushrooms in fluorescent brightener to keep them looking fresh.

Fluorescent brighteners are used in the paper and textile industry to make colors brighter and whites whiter.

In Shanghai, the market watchdog said yesterday it would watch out for the problem though it hadn't yet conducted an inspection in the local market.

Zhang Jinsong, deputy director of the Edible Fungi Research Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Agriculture, didn't think the compound was widely used in the Shanghai market.

Zhang Hao, a member of the "science exploration group" at the Xicheng District Youth Science and Technology Museum in Beijing, did his research in Gao's university lab and under his guidance.

He tested 16 kinds of mushrooms from retail and wholesale markets, using ultraviolet light which would cause the brightener to shine.

Only three of the 16 samples were untainted - organic needle mushrooms and two types of dried mushroom.

The report showed most of the fresh mushrooms were tainted. The dried mushrooms, with their long shelf life, were clean because they didn't need brighteners to keep their freshness, the report said.

"Fluorescent brightener is a chemical additive which is strictly forbidden in food production," said Gu Zhenhua, a division chief of the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration. "The chemical will harm people's health and some kinds of the brightener may produce cancer."


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