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September 17, 2011

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Heritage soy sauce factory shut down

A CENTURY-OLD Shanghai soy sauce brand is missing the 2011 China's Time-honored Brands Expo, which opened on Thursday, because food safety authorities shut it down over pollution concerns.

The 130-year-old factory that makes Qianwanlong, a brand of hand-crafted soy sauce whose natural fermenting method is listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage, was shut down by the Pudong New Area Food and Drug Administration.

Production was halted in April on the grounds that a neighboring print works might pose a pollution threat and the soy sauce factory's old-fashioned wooden and bamboo containers for fermenting and brewing could generate toxic gas.

Because the sauce is hand-made, annual volume is limited and sold only by the Shanghai No.1 Food Store in Nanjing Road.

Luo Liansheng, the factory's office director, said: "After the food store ran out of stock, people called the factory to complain, which has made us afraid to pick up the phone."

Workers blend saltwater, wheat, soybeans and a mold, and ferment the culture in big vats, all over 100 years old, for more than six months.

Luo said: "The print house was here two years earlier than us but we still obtained the production license."

"If it is polluting, why were we given the license?" Luo asked.

"And everyone uses wooden and bamboo containers in daily life, such as wooden chopsticks and bamboo steamers for buns. Why are they suddenly not safe?" the director said.

Qianwanlong is supervised directly by the Shanghai Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV, because the brand is rated a cultural heritage.

Officials from the administration, the Pudong FDA and the factory are to meet next week to find a solution.


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