All-clear for Chinese kimchi after lead scare
Khang Hyun-sung in Seoul
South Korea's food standards agency has allayed public concerns over kimchi manufactured in China, despite a safety scare over levels of lead found in imports of the popular side-dish that accompanies meals in Korea.
Last month a South Korean lawmaker, quoting a study by the Seoul Research Institute of Public Health and Environment, suggested some brands of Chinese-made kimchi contained an average of 0.302 part per million of lead, five times that found in domestic products.
However, after carrying out its own tests, Korea's Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the Chinese-produced spicy pickled cabbage is safe to eat.
The administration tested 28 domestic and 30 Chinese-made kimchi samples and found seven imported and 14 Korean-made brands contained less than 0.05 part per million of lead.
The remainder did not contain any traces of the substance.
However, the Korean lawmaker, Ko Kyung-hwa, who originally questioned the safety of Chinese-made kimchi, expressed scepticism about the conclusions of the administration.
'I believe the administration is trying to cool this kimchi scandal down with untrustworthy results,' she said.
Despite the fact that the quantities of lead said to have been found in the Chinese-made kimchi are far below internationally recognised permitted levels, the original safety scare sparked a flurry of public concern in South Korea.
Newspapers have quoted housewives saying they would make more of the side-dish themselves, while anecdotal evidence suggested a drop in the consumption of kimchi in canteens and restaurants.
Those reports have irritated Beijing. 'The Chinese Foreign Ministry has officially requested us [South Korea] to co-operate to ensure South Korean press fairly reports on China's kimchi exports,' South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a Seoul official as saying.
Chinese imports of kimchi have been gaining an increasing share of the market in recent years and it is estimated that about half of public eateries in South Korea serve kimchi produced in China.