Tainted bean sprouts seized in police raids

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2011, 12:00am


Police in the northeastern city of Shenyang have seized 25 tonnes of bean sprouts allegedly tainted with carcinogenic additives from six underground workshops, state media said.

'At least four types of additives, including sodium nitrite, urea and Enrofloxacin [an antibiotic], have been found in the sprouts,' an unnamed expert from the Shenyang Agriculture Committee who had participated in a series of police operations since early Sunday told Xinhua.

Food safety regulations say no additives can be used in growing bean sprouts.

The expert warned that consuming food contaminated by sodium nitrite could cause cancer, while Enrofloxacin was a drug used for pets.

A workshop owner who was among 12 suspects detained said many manufacturers used such additives to speed the growth of bean sprouts and make them look more attractive, the report said.

Wang Lin, a senior police officer in Shenyang, said 'bean sprouts produced that way look much better' and that toxic bean sprouts accounted for about one-third of all bean sprouts sold in the city's markets.

The report said sprout workshop owners could double their profits by using additives to grow the vegetable.

Food safety scandals have plagued the mainland for years, one of the most serious being the contamination of baby formula with melamine in late 2008.

Last week, Shanghai authorities pulled thousands of steamed buns from supermarket shelves after China Central Television showed workers in filthy workshops altering sell-by date stickers, recycling nearly out-of-date buns into batches of 'new' dough and adding unmeasured amounts of artificial colouring, sweeteners and preservatives not listed in the products' ingredients.

Premier Wen Jiabao lashed out last week at sinking moral standards, saying recent scandals such as tainted milk powder and toxic chemicals in food showed that integrity had hit a new low.