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Cancer fear over instant noodles

2012-10-30 13:53 Global Times     Web Editor: Zang Kejia comment

A representative of a South Korean instant noodle company in China told the Global Times Monday that their product on sale in Beijing does not contain a cancer-causing agent. 

Despite this, most supermarkets in the capital, including Walmart and Ito Yokado, have cleared the shelves of packets of six types of Nongshim noodles, after a recall was issued Friday by Chinese quality supervision authorities. 

The health scare comes after the Korean Food and Drug Administration ordered a recall of Nongshim noodles last Wednesday in South Korea, because seasoning packets contained benzopyrene, a cause of lung, bladder and skin cancer, Arirang News reported Friday.

Benzopyrene is a hydrocarbon which is found in coal tar and cigarette smoke.

The same day, the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine made an announcement on its website, asking importers to recall the noodles and also demanded an explanation from South Korea. The announcement said that South Korean authorities had agreed to the recall.

The head of the marketing department of Shanghai Nongshim Food Company, surnamed Zhou, told the Global Times Monday that noodles sold in China are manufactured in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, and in Shanghai.

"We asked a third party organization to check the Shenyang noodles, and it turned out there is zero benzopyrene in their products," said Zhou.

"It's the Shenyang-produced noodles which are on sale in Beijing," she said, "the Shanghai-produced noodles have been sent for tests, and the results will be out within days."

Zhou noted that Nongshim did not ask for their products to be taken off the shelves, as there is no quality problem.

"This could be the action of the store owners who fear they would cause unnecessary trouble for themselves," she said.

The European Union and the World Health Organization list benzopyrene as a Group I carcinogen and have set a limit on the maximum benzopyrene level in smoked food at 5 parts per billion (PPB) and 10 PPB respectively, but in China, the limits only apply to cooking oil, People's Daily Online reported Monday.

Dong Jinshi, secretary general of the International Food Packaging Association, said Monday the carcinogenic effect of benzopyrene has only been tested on animals, not humans.

In terms of the Korean instant noodles, Dong said there is no standard regulation that particularly targets food like instant noodles in China.

"The PPB standard rate is only for cooking oil, at 10 PPB," he said.

"Whether there is a necessity to introduce a more specific regulation targeting particular food should be put on the agenda at this time," he noted.

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