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July 2, 2013

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Straws removed from sale after fears of health risks

DRINKING straws that pose a potential health hazard were yesterday ordered to be removed from sale in Shanghai's Yuyuan Garden area, believed to be the source of most of the straws used in the city.

Customers include schools, milk tea stores and restaurants.

Zhou Jian, director of the Yuyuan administrative office with the Huangpu Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau, said the straws would be sent for tests and businesses whose products failed would be punished.

Doctors say substandard straws could harm the digestive system and liver and lead to early puberty, infertility and even cancer because they discharge harmful substances when in contact with hot drinks.

At a commodity market on Fuyou Road near the garden, a large number of stores sell packs of drinking straws that have no production information as required by a national standard.

A vendor at the market said the drinking straws he sells are safe.

However, there is no information about where they are produced or from what materials on the packs and no QS (quality safety) sign, which is required by quality watchdogs.

The vendor said he supplied drinking straws to primary and middle schools, ice cream stores, bars, nightclubs and breakfast vendors.

He had bought the straws from Yiwu, a city in Zhejiang Province famous for its small commodities markets.

Some schools bought several hundred packs of drinking straws at a time, he said.

Lou Zhongping, who helped draft the national standard for drinking straws that came into effect in 2010, said packs of straws that lacked production information dominated the market in Shanghai.

He estimated they accounted for about 80 percent of straws sold in the city.

Lou, the president of Soton Drinking Straws, one of the largest producers in the world, said substandard straws were made in small underground factories.

Dong Jinshi, vice president of the International Food Packaging Association, said that at least half of the drinking straws on the market and used by restaurants and milk tea stores are made of waste plastic with some containing industrial coloring agents.

Waste plastic is banned from being used in drinking straws under the national standard, but authorities seldom check, Dong said.

Some companies even fabricate QS signs and the quality of almost all straws bought in bulk could not be assured.

The cost of normal straws is about three to five times those made of waste plastic, and Zhejiang Province is a major supplier to Shanghai, Dong added.

Most straws sold in supermarkets are safe because they have packages indicating their source, he said.

But the price of straws made by registered companies is high in comparison to the substandard variety.

At a Wujiang Road outlet of Happy Lemon, a popular milk tea brand, a staff member said there was no quality problem with the straws it uses.

However, when asked about the producers and suppliers of the straws at the store, she refused to answer any more questions.


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