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December 2, 2009

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Dispute over drinks quality takes turn for worse

A DISPUTE between two beverage makers and food authorities in southern China's Hainan Province over the quality of three popular drinks has intensified.

The Hainan Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau stood by test results it released that showed high arsenic levels in products of Nongfu Spring and Taiwan's Uni-President Enterprises.

The two companies raised strong objections and requested an official explanation as they produced state-level reports declaring their products safe.

Wu Shuliang, director of the Hainan bureau, said that tests were conducted on three samples, which all showed these products were contaminated, according to Xinhua news agency.

Wu was quoted as saying the testing process was "flawless" and the bureau stood by the results.

On November 24, the Haikou Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau in Hainan issued a warning to consumers, saying the 30 percent vegetable and fruit juice mix and C100 grapefruit juice, produced by Nongfu Spring on June 27 and August 16, had higher levels of toxic chemical arsenic than permitted by national standards.


It said the same contamination was found in a peach drink of Uni-President produced on August 22.

Uni-President yesterday showed a result from the Comprehensive Test Center of the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine in Beijing, which said the suspected beverages contained arsenic at an acceptable level of less than 0.01 milligram per liter after checking the same batch of products.

The national requirement is less than 0.2 milligram per liter.

The center is a state-level inspection affiliate of the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Yang Shouzheng, executive assistant of president of the parent company, President Enterprises (China) Investment Co Ltd, said the results of these tests should be recognized by Haikou authorities.

"We felt very disappointed on how the Haikou authorities handled the whole issue," Yang told reporters.

"We hope they give us an official explanation and the public takes an objective attitude on the case."

During a press conference in Shanghai, Yang said the scandal had caused damage to the company.

Zhong Shanshan, chairman of Nongfu, said it may launch a compensation case against Hainan authorities after losing 1 billion yuan (US$147 million) due to the scandal.


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