Chemical scare takes froth off beer boom

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 12:00am

Rampant media speculation about the addition of formaldehyde to mainland beer has caused scares in Japan and South Korea, but it has not stopped Beijingers from gulping away in the sweltering heat.

Holding his lunchtime bottle of Yanjing beer, a Beijing rubbish collector said: 'I can't take it seriously. It's summer and I feel thirsty, so I drink beer.'

The formaldehyde beer scandal first emerged in the Global Times last week when it quoted an industry expert as saying the chemical was added to 95 per cent of beer throughout the country. Formaldehyde, a colourless, flammable and strong-smelling gas, has been classified as a human carcinogen. It is used as a preservative, fungicide, germicide and disinfectant.

The issue was picked up by a wide range of media outlets, with some industry experts and manufacturers saying the country's top beer manufacturers did not use the chemical in their production process. Nevertheless, the scandal quickly created ripples in China's overseas beer markets.

Seoul's food safety watchdog has ordered a recall and tests on imported Chinese beer, an annual trade estimated to exceed 10 million yuan.

Tokyo has also demanded tests on imported Chinese beer. Last year, Japanese consumers drank 1.78 million barrels of mainland brew.

Last month, another scare centred on reports that 90 per cent of unpasteurised milk was unsafe. The journalist who wrote the original story for the Beijing Morning Post later admitted that the figure had been used 'inappropriately'.

Colgate also ran into trouble in April when the mainland media claimed that a chemical in one of its toothpastes could generate a carcinogenic gas when mixed with tap water. The claim, originally published in a British newspaper, was later found to be groundless.

The deputy dean of Peking University's School of Journalism and Communications, Chen Changfeng , said the mainland media 'was fighting to gain juicy news at the cost of double-checking the facts'.


Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.