China Food Safety

Guangzhou reveals details on cadmium tainting as public pressure mounts

Origin, brands of rice in Guangzhou tainted by the heavy metal are not revealed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 10:22am

Guangzhou's food-safety authorities have revealed some details about the sale of rice and rice noodles contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal, in the face of enormous public pressure.

And having initially withheld information about the brands involved and where the items were produced, yesterday they released that information.

Six batches of rice were from Hunan province and two batches of rice noodles from two processing plants in Dongguan, Guangdong.

On Friday, the authorities also provided information about the restaurants and school cafeterias where problematic rice products were found.

These included the Guangzhou Taiyang Seafood Restaurant in Liwan district, the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, the Yannanfei Restaurant in Haizhu district and the Zhongkai University of Agriculture and Engineering.

Food inspectors took a total of eight samples. They found all contained excessive levels of cadmium, a heavy metal that can cause kidney failure, bone disease and other ailments if ingested or absorbed through the skin.

The inspections were conducted between January and March but the results were not released until Thursday.

The highest cadmium level - 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of rice - was found at Taiyang Seafood Restaurant. This is twice the limit of national food safety standards.

The government statement stressed that the high proportion of tainted rice in the inspections did not represent the actual food-safety situation in Guangzhou because of the limited number of samples.

A manager at the restaurant said yesterday that most of its staff, herself included, were unaware of the cadmium issue until they started receiving a barrage of phone calls from media and customers.

The incident, the latest in a seemingly endless series of food scandals, prompted a nationwide outcry over food safety and the perceived lack of transparency of the government's handling of the issue on Friday.

In a statement on Thursday, the administration said it had inspected 18 rice samples and found nearly half contained too much cadmium.

More than 100,000 internet users posted comments on major internet portals such as Sina and Soho on Friday urging the government to name the brands involved.