12/13/2012, 00.00
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China's green tea tainted by pesticides

Japanese company recalls 400,000 packages after tests reveal higher than accepted levels of pesticide residue in one of China's foremost teas, Oolong Tea. Health hazardous phthalates have been found in products by at least two liquor companies, including Kweichow Moutai, one of China's best known and expensive liquor brands. The government is trying to update its legislation to prevent food poisoning but with little success.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China's Oolong Tea is the latest casualty in the long string of scandals involving mainland food products. A Japanese food company was recalling about 400,000 packages of Oolong Tea after spot testing found that some contained illegal levels of pesticide residue.

"We found the higher levels of pesticide residue after conducting voluntary tests following another company's announcement about Oolong teabags," an Ito En spokesman told reporters.

But he insisted the findings were not an imminent health risk, adding that the firm had not received any complaints from customers.

The spokesman said the tea had passed sample testing performed in China, which has been hit by a string of food safety scandals in recent years.

In 2008, the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products to give the appearance of higher protein content in what became China's biggest food safety scandal to date. At least six babies died and another 300,000 became ill after drinking milk tainted with melamine.

Concerns over the toxic chemical were triggered after one of China's best-known (and most expensive) liquor brands, Kweichow Moutai, was found to contain more industrial plasticisers, called phthalates, than allowed.

Another top Chinese brand, Jiugui Liquor, appears to be in the same situation.

In view of popular anger, as evinced by online posting, Chinese authorities have been trying to impose higher production standards and quality control measures.

New inspections have been announced for food plants, but little is known about the standards that must be met.

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