Law doesn't require checks for toxic plasticisers in liquor, says drinks group

Association says checks for contaminant not now required for liquor quality assurance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:40pm

The China Alcoholic Drinks Association has hit back at critics over the revelation that high levels of a toxic chemical were found in a famous Chinese liquor brand.

It said checks for the contaminant in question aren't required under current quality assurance standards for liquor.

However, the association also admitted that nearly all liquor produced on the mainland contains levels of industrial plasticisers, called phthalates, that exceed national standards for food.

In a statement issued on Monday, the association said mainland authorities have been working on amending regulations for liquor production, with a priority being given to limiting the presence of industrial plasticizers, ever since a food-safety scandal last year involving excessive levels of plasticisers in sports drinks from Taiwan.

The statement was released the same day that Hunan-based Jiugui Liquor's products were alleged by local media to contain phthalates at more than three times the level allowed in national standards that govern all food.

The Hunan provincial quality watchdog said it would look into the matter, China News Service reported online.

Phthalates are widely used to make plastics and other materials soft and flexible, but when consumed can cause hormonal and reproductive problems, and can even jeopardise immune and digestive systems.

The liquor association also said that, based on a test of liquor products on the mainland, almost all contained phthalates with a concentration of 0.495 to 2.32 milligrams per kilogram, or an average phthalates level of 0.537 milligrams per kilogram, which exceeds the national standard of 0.3 milligrams per kilogram for all food.

The Jiugui Liquor sample obtained by reporters had a level of 1.08 milligrams per kilogram.The chemical doesn't come from the liquor-fermentation process, but from equipment, the association said.

However, the association said there hasn't been a case involving a customer becoming ill from phthalates in liquor since plastic equipment started being used in the production 40 years ago.

China National Radio reported that Fan Zhen, a deputy general manager of Jiugui Liquor, said he did not know if the liquor sample obtained by reporters was authentic, and he questioned Intertek's findings, adding that his company was awaiting testing results from samples it sent to an "authoritative" institute.