The story appears on

Page A2

November 27, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Nation

Health alert as season for bean sprouts approaches

As winter approaches, so does the high season for bean sprouts in many parts of China. But it also heralds a fresh round of safety scares.

Using cancer-inducing additives to increase bean sprouts’ appeal to buyers has become an unwritten rule for processors, a Xinhua news agency investigative report said yesterday.

A raid on three underground workshops in the northern city of Tianjin earlier this month uncovered banned chemicals including growth stimulants, antibiotics, bleaching powder and preservatives used to whiten bean sprouts and keep them looking fresh.

AB powder, one of the commonly used agents, contains 6-Benylaminopurine or 6-BAP, and Gibberelin, or GA, said Shen Zhaohui, an official with the national bean sprouts industry association.

Shen said bean sprouts laced with these substances pose high risks of causing early puberty, menstrual cycle changes, osteoporsis, and could even cause cancer.

Zhang Yonggui, owner of one of the Tianjin underground workshops, told Xinhua: “We have been adding these to bean sprouts for generations. It is known across the industry and nothing new. I never heard a license is required for producing bean sprouts.”

Liu Xingguo, another underground workshop owner who admitted using chemicals during the production process, said: “We produce 200–250 kilograms of bean sprouts each day and never heard anyone got a problem after eating them.”

Up to 4.2 tons of tainted bean sprouts have been seized by the Tianjin Food and Drug Administration, along with 140 bags of growth stimulants, 10 bags of preservatives, 30 bags of brightening agents, three bottles of plant growth regulators and one bag of bleaching powder.

Since May, 25 workshops have been raided across the city. 

Liu said growth stimulant could increase the output of bean sprouts by 40 percent. A shortened growth cycle coupled with a better look can increase profit margins by 50 percent, which explains the rampant use of chemicals.

The problem is not just one for Tianjin. Stories of tainted bean sprouts have made headlines across China in recent years, from Shandong, Shaanxi, Liaoning, Xinjiang and Zhejiang provinces to Shanghai. 

Requiring no soil, only water and moderate temperatures for growth, bean sprouts emerge in two to seven days from the seed or bean, depending on type, some as a food product and some as agricultural produce. 

The persistent problem of chemicals used in growing bean sprouts is also blamed on a regulatory vacuum, as no regulators are fully accountable for supervising their safety, Xinhua said.

Industry and commerce administrations say they are in charge of food safety of commodities in circulation, so the quality supervision and inspection agencies should oversee bean sprouts. However, quality supervisors classify bean sprouts as agricultural produce, which should be governed by agriculture authorities. In turn, agricultural authorities don’t buy that idea, because they say bean sprouts don’t grow in the ground.



Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend