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August 19, 2011

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City wants to see cubilose standard

CHINA needs a national standard for the production of cubilose, an expensive delicacy used in Chinese cooking for hundreds of years, local quality authorities said yesterday.

Officials can test the products only according to manufacturers' own standards, which are not unified and may not be scientific, the authorities noted.

Cubilose is made mainly from the saliva nests of swiftlets. The product, boasting a high protein and mineral content, is popular with women aiming to maintain a youthful appearance. Usually eaten as a sweet soup, it is also made into snacks.

Red cubilose - the rarest variety - has sparked national concern after Zhejiang Province watchdogs found earlier this week that the product being sold is counterfeit and contains carcinogenic chemicals.

Red cubilose occurs when the birds' nests are built on rock where minerals - especially iron - permeate them, coloring the nests red. But some manufacturers dyed ordinary cubilose red, resulting in excessive nitrite levels and creating a fraudulent product.

The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said the city has eight companies producing cubilose, but none of them produces the red variety.

The bureau inspects the companies three to four times a year, and officials said all the products were "qualified." But the test is based on the companies' own standard.

"We hope the industry can have a unified, scientific standard, hence the quality can be easier and more reliable," said Liu Zhenhua, an official with the bureau.

The Shanghai firms used to produce red cubilose but have stopped one by one, saying their product cannot compete with the low-priced fake ones now on the market.

Zhang Rongwei, director of Ronghetang Health Food Co Ltd, said the raw material of red cubilose came from Malaysia, and the material is extremely rare now.

"We produced red cubilose before the end of last year, and we could only stock 1 kilogram of the raw material a year," he said.

"In the market, real red cubilose costs 250 yuan (US$39) per gram."

In some local health food markets, however, vendors were selling what they claimed to be red cubilose for less than 20 yuan per gram. Since Zhejiang authorities disclosed the scandal, many vendors have stopped selling the product.


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