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November 6, 2013

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Toxic scare oranges passed off as foreign

UNSCRUPULOUS city fruit sellers are labeling specialty oranges from eastern Jiangxi Province as Australian or American, after a cancer-causing dyeing scandal hit confidence in the domestic variety.

This is even though the city’s food safety watchdog has found no contaminated Gannan navel oranges on sale in Shanghai.

It emerged last month that some Gannan navel oranges had been illegally colored with carcinogenic red Sudan dyes, usually used on plastics and other synthetic materials.

Investigations also revealed that fruit had been artificially ripened using growth stimulator ethrel, banned for use in oranges.

The Shanghai Food Safety Office said yesterday that tests on 20 samples of Gannan navel oranges on sale in the city revealed no trace of the carcinogenic dye, nor artificial ripening.

However, Pan Caidong, deputy director of Shanghai Fruit Association, said a number of retailers are nonetheless labeling the Jiangxi fruit as produce of Australia or the United States.

Some fruit sellers said sales of Gannan navel oranges — popular among locals for their succulent and sweet taste — have been affected by the scandal, said Pan, who is also manager of Shanhua Fruit Wholesale Market, a major fruit supplier in Putuo District.

Some consumers expressed their concerns about oranges on sale in the city in the wake of the scandal.

“I’ve definitely become more careful when picking oranges since the news reports, said Shanghai shopper Mao Jie.

“I avoid buying them from street vendors and sometimes use wet wipes to clean them.”

Local wholesale fruit markets have tightened supervision of oranges from Ganzhou, in Jiangxi Province, asking businesses to provide detailed certificates.

Gannan navel oranges refer to oranges grown in some 18 counties in Ganzhou City in Jiangxi.

They are expected to be labeled appropriately, said the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Pan said that Gannan navel oranges are just hitting the market around now and large-scale sales should begin within a fortnight. The season lasts until March, added Pan.



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