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Cabbage sales wilt amid chemical fears

By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)

16:42, May 21, 2012

Sales of Chinese cabbages have plummeted after more than 120 tons of the vegetable were found to contain formaldehyde during an inspection in Guangzhou, Guangdong's provincial capital, a week ago.

Lin Yetao, an executive from the Jiangnan wholesale vegetable and fruit market, said cabbage sales and prices have slumped in the past week.

Daily sales, which used to reach about 600 tons, have fallen to less than 300 tons at the market, Lin said.

The Jiangnan market is a major vegetable and fruit wholesale facility in this southern metropolis, which has a population of more than 12 million.

The cabbage price, which was 3.2 yuan (51 cents) a kilogram a week ago, has fallen to 2.2 yuan a kg, Lin said.

Shoppers are avoiding cabbage, even though agricultural inspections have found that the farm chemical residue levels now meet national requirements, he said.

"All the cabbage has been required to gain 'health certificates' before being put on sale in Jiangnan," Lin added.

He predicted sales would return to normal in the coming weeks, as inspections by government departments have found the cabbage to be problem-free for more than three days as of Sunday.

A week ago, the formaldehyde content of more than 122.4 tons of cabbage was found to have surpassed the national standard, causing a panic among local residents. The toxic vegetables were immediately destroyed.

The cabbage in question originated in Shandong and Yunnan provinces, according to local media reports.

Wang Suhong, a vegetable trader in the Taojin meat and vegetable market in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district, said cabbage sales have slumped.

"I've chosen to sell more lettuce, water spinach and broccoli to replace cabbage," she said on Sunday.

Wan Yingzhi, a Guangzhou housewife, said she would not buy cabbage at the moment.

"I worry our health might be harmed by the formaldehyde," she said.

Authorities from the Guangzhou bureau of agriculture, said formaldehyde is a colorless, poisonous gas. Those who inhale it might suffer from headache and respiratory tract diseases.

In recent years, some illegal vegetable traders in Shandong and other northern parts of China were found to be spraying formaldehyde on their vegetables to help keep them fresh, according to local media reports.

The bureau has been urged to launch a city-wide inspection to prevent such vegetables from entering local markets.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, farm chemicals must be used in agricultural production to ensure the harvest.

Up to "70 percent of the agricultural harvest would be lost if no pesticide is used in agricultural production," the ministry said in a question-and-answer format on its website on Thursday.

"But we must ensure the pesticide residue is below national standards," the ministry said.

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