09/03/2014, 00.00
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Zhejiang: 90 million drug capsules laced with the toxic metal chromium sold

The authorities warn people, arrest 11 people, but most of the stock is still unaccounted for. Chromium is used in metallurgy, and as buffer. If ingested in large amounts, it can cause death. China's streak of food and drug safety scandals continue.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Chinese authorities are trying to trace 90 million drug capsules laced with the toxic metal chromium that have been sold on the open market. Although people have been warned, finding all of the accounted capsules will be very hard.

Police arrested 11 people in Zhejiang province following the discovery that the capsules - which pharmaceutical companies use for their drugs - were tainted with the poisonous chemical element.

Along with food and drug authorities in Ninghai County, law enforcement seized more than 440,000 chromium-laced capsules from an illegal workshop.

They also confiscated more than 100 kg of semi-finished capsules and more than 700 kg of capsule material made from industrial gelatine.

The illegal workshop's owner, identified by his surname Pan, had hired ten people who had been involved in a tainted capsule scandal in 2012. All eleven were taken into custody on August 29 for producing and selling a poisonous product.

Chromium is used in metal alloys, in the chemical, refractory and foundry industries.

Chromium oxide is used in glazing, but it can be used in manufacturing magnetic tapes.

Very colourful, it is inexpensive and easy to extract.

Investigators believe that it is used in the pharmaceutical industry to increase the weight of capsules, giving the impression that they are more effective.

In recent years, China has experienced many scandals in virtually every sector, from food to pharmaceuticals, involving low quality or tainted products.

The best known cases are that of melamine-tainted milk powder, which caused the deaths of at least six infants and made about 300,000 seriously ill; gelatine-injected shrimps; and poisonous toothpaste.

As it becomes increasingly linked to the economy of mainland China, even Taiwan has been affected by the problem.


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