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November 21, 2012

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Questioned liquor off the shelf

Major supermarkets in Shanghai, including Lotus and Carrefour, pulled Jiugui liquor products off the shelf yesterday after media reports claiming they contained an excess of plasticizers which could impair male sexual function and even cause liver cancer.

Quality watchdogs, alcohol supervisors and industrial and commercial authorities said yesterday they would carry out random checks on Chinese liquors available in the city and publish the results soon.

The actions follow a report on news website on Monday that samples of Jiugui, selling for 438 yuan (US$70) a bottle, were found to contain excess plasticizers in tests carried out by a company in Shanghai.

A report issued by the Beijing-based China Alcoholic Drinks Association in August said that most Chinese liquors had been found to contain excess levels of plasticizers.

It said the plasticizers mainly came from plastic products used during the production process, such as plastic tubing, containers and packaging.

The report said that liquors with plastic packaging would have higher level of plasticizers over time. This suggested, the website said, that many high-end liquors in plastic packaging bought by consumers to form part of a collection would contain more plasticizers than normal products and pose a threat to health.

The website accused the association of knowing about the problem as early as June last year, citing an internal file.

According to the website, the association issued announcements to liquor companies in December last year, ordering them to ban the use of plastic products during production. Special checks on plastic liquor bottle caps were also required by the association.

In two meetings held by the association in April and July this year, the association stressed the importance of controlling the level of plasticizers in liquors, the website said.

The association has not yet responded to the claims but on its official website on Monday it said the media "had been irresponsible to claim that Chinese liquors have excessive level of plasticizers with a lack of evidence" as the country lacked a national standard for plasticizers in liquor.

The association said that the website had judged whether the level was excessive by using the national standard for additives in containers and packages.

A standard for plasticizers in liquor was still being drafted, but levels of plasticizers in Chinese liquor products were far lower than standards in other countries, the association said.

On Monday, liquor producer Hunan Jiugui Liquor Co, which is based in central China's Hunan Province, said that the Shanghai testing company involved, Intertek Co, was not authoritative and it would be sending products to an official facility for checks.


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