Chinese customs gets knickers in a twist over Victoria’s Secret shipment with ‘excess’ levels of formaldehyde

Authorities seize large quantities of underwear and other designer goods, citing concerns they do not meet safety regulations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 10:40pm

Shanghai customs has seized a shipment of Victoria’s Secret underwear because it reportedly contained excess levels of the toxic chemical formaldehyde.

The batch seized on Sunday was destroyed as part of a major seizure of 14 shipments of designer clothing imports, totalling 55,000 items and worth more than 1.9 million yuan (US$300,000), according to a report by CCTV.

Among them were five batches of Ralph Lauren clothing that had “excessive pH levels”, and also included children’s clothes whose buttons and fastenings did not meet Chinese safety guidelines.

“Formaldehyde is a particularly serious carcinogen,” said Zhou Hong, deputy chief of the Shanghai Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.

“Since this shipment does not meet national safety regulations for clothing, it will be returned and destroyed in accordance with commodity inspection laws.”

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The source country of the clothing is not known.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical that is commonly used in DIY construction materials. Small traces are occasionally found in clothes as it prevents wrinkles and mildew, preserves fabric dye, and decreases staining.

Exposure to formaldehyde has been proven to cause a range of adverse health conditions such as skin rashes, chest pains, bronchitis and lung damage.

Chinese regulations on formaldehyde found in clothing were introduced in 2005 as part of its basic guidelines for textile products.

The rules state that formaldehyde content must be less than 20mg/kg in infant products, less than 75mg/kg in products in direct contact with human skin, and less than 300mg/kg in products coming into non-direct contact with human skin.

It was not disclosed what levels of formaldehyde had been found in the seized batch, and it was not known how excess levels might have got into the clothing.

Victoria’s Secret has been contacted for comment.

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Earlier this month, Shanghai customs also confiscated and destroyed a 1.3-tonne shipment of frozen king crabs from Chile worth more than US$15,000, since the food was past its expiry date.

Since the end of August authorities in the city have also banned the import of European soft cheeses such as Brie, Roquefort and Camembert, according to a leaked letter from one of the city’s major food distributors Sinodis.

No official reason was given as to why they were banned but a report by CNN over the weekend suggested the authorities were concerned about bacteria levels.