Boy's tainted food story wins out over officials'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am

Mainlanders believe a primary school pupil rather than government departments when it comes to a report that 81 per cent of mushrooms on sale in Beijing were bleached with harmful chemicals.

Zhang Hao, an 11-year-old Beijing primary pupil, became one of the most mentioned names on the mainland after a simple food safety test he conducted, with the help of experts, the Beijing News reported.

Dozens of other newspapers carried the story.

Hao was prompted to do the tests when his mother barred him from eating mushrooms in February, after media reports said some were bleached.

The boy randomly chose 16 types of mushrooms, including 14 samples of fresh ones and two of dry. He looked for bleaching agents, working under the supervision of a PhD student in a microbiology laboratory at China Agricultural University.

His tests found bleach had been used on 13 of the 14 fresh mushrooms. The dry mushrooms were found to be untainted. Health experts said bleach chemicals can damage the liver and trigger asthma and skin allergies.

A Beijing Municipal Bureau of Industry and Commerce official criticised Hao's findings as unscientific. A Beijing Municipal Food Safety Office survey found that more than 97 per cent of mushrooms on sale in the capital were free of bleaching agents.

But consumers were sceptical. In an internet survey, more than 1,100 people said they believed the boy's results. Eight believed the city's findings.