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Baby food recalled in mercury alert

By Wang Xiaodong and Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

08:38, May 02, 2013

23 batches found to contain excessive levels

Three food companies have recalled 23 batches of baby food supplement after they were found to contain excessive levels of mercury.

A public relations manager for Heinz (China), who only gave her surname, Chen, said on Wednesday: "We contacted our distributors and customers and started to recall all five batches of dried tuna fish floss on yesterday."

The five are among 23 batches of products, all made from deep-sea fish, ordered to be recalled by food safety authorities after tests showed they contained an average of 0.03 mg of mercury per kg, 0.01 mg higher than the standard, Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

A total of 830 infant food supplements were tested, and 807 were up to standard, the report said.

The three manufacturers involved are Zhejiang Beingmate Scientific-Industrial Trade Share Co in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; Heinz Qingdao Food Co in Qingdao, Shandong province; and Yancheng Futong Food Scientific Industrial Co in Jiangsu province.

Initial investigations show all the mercury came from deep-sea fish, and the mercury levels in the products are not high enough to pose health risks to infants, according to a statement from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment.

"However, monitoring of baby food should be intensified as infants are sensitive to food safety risks," the statement said.

The five batches of tuna fish floss being recalled by Heinz (China) were made from tuna from the southern Pacific, which has relatively low amounts of pollution, Chen said.

"We conducted mercury tests in samples of tuna fish before manufacturing, and all passed the tests," Chen said. "We also found individual tuna fish varies in mercury content, and that may be why some samples failed other tests (conducted by food safety authorities)."

Heinz (China) released a statement on its website promising to give refunds to customers who bought the products, and promising it will intensify monitoring of tuna fish materials.

Zhejiang Beingmate Scientific-Industrial Trade Share Co said it has recalled all sailfish and tuna fish floss produced between last July and March this year by another company in Zhejiang province, which it gave authorization to, after it was told by food safety authorities that several batches of the floss were tested and found to contain excessive mercury.

Zhu Aisong, a manager at Yancheng Futong Food Scientific Industrial Co, which produces tuna fish floss for US-based Bright Beginnings, said the company has finished recalling all 15 kg of tuna fish it produced in September last year.

"We received the order for a recall ... and immediately took action," Zhu said. "But I think the national standard for mercury content is too strict, and as far as I know, mercury levels in deep-sea food products made by many companies fail the standard."

Mei Aoxue, a 32-year-old mother in Dongying, Shandong province, said she was worried to hear that tuna fish floss made by Heinz had been found to contain excessive levels of mercury.

Mei said her child, who is five years old now, took the supplement made by Heinz for about six months years ago, as she had full confidence in foreign-branded products.

"But I will think twice before buying foreign food," she said. "I hope more tests can be done by independent institutions to ensure baby food sold in the market is safe."

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