Health ministry defends controversial food safety standard

Updated: 2011-11-25 09:41


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BEIJING - In response to public suspicion stoked by recent dumpling contamination scandals, China's Ministry of Health on Thursday said the new food safety standard for flash-frozen dumplings did not show signs of leniency.

The Ministry introduced the new food safety standard on flash-frozen dough or rice products on Thursday.

The Ministry has been accused of loosening scrutiny over a disease-generating bacteria in such foods, staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph, which can cause various diseases, including pneumonia and sepsis, and is sometimes life-threatening.

The controversy became particularly relevant after several major brands of frozen dumplings have been successively recalled in recent months.

In October, a Henan-based company, Zhengzhou Sinian Food Co Ltd, confirmed the contamination of golden staph in its flash-frozen seafood- and pork-stuffed dumplings.

Frozen dumplings made by Hong Kong-based manufacturer Wanchai Ferry were found to contain golden staph in November, and some of its products have been pulled from shelves.

The previous standard provided that no golden staph should be tested in such food, while the new one gives a quantitative restriction that the volume of the bacteria should be no more than ten to the fourth degree.

Liu Xiumei, a food safety expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the press conference held by the health ministry that such bacteria becomes inactivate after the food is boiled for a few seconds, and it takes a volume of ten to the fifth degree to generate toxicity.

The previous standard could only serve as a general provision due to the lack of quantitative microbiological testing back when it was introduced, Liu said, stressing that the new standard is not a sign that the Ministry has gone soft on bacterial contamination of relevant foods.

The new standard will come into effect starting Dec 21, 2011.