CHINA - The baijiu industry has suffered a major setback after plasticizers were allegedly found in almost all brands of the liquor.
On Monday, shares in the Shenzhen-listed Jiugui Liquor Co, a large baijiu manufacturer based in Hunan province, were suspended from trade after business news website 21cbh.com reported the company's products were found to contain excessive plasticizers.
The trading of shares in the company will resume after the relevant facts are verified, the suspension notice said.
The company's shares remained suspended on Tuesday.
"I felt very confused about the test results as reported by media because there is no special national standard for such a chemical in baijiu at all. And now the company's products have been sent to a qualified department to be tested," Fan Zhen, vice-president of Jiugui Liquor, was quoted as saying by China Central Television on Tuesday.
Plasticizers are banned in China as food additives because the chemicals can cause male fertility problems and induce early female puberty, and experiments on animals have demonstrated a carcinogenic effect.
Liquor products produced by Jiugui, which were bought in Beijing, were tested for three types of plasticizers at an independent lab, 21cbh.com reported on Monday.
The amount of plasticizer DBP in the company's products was 1.08 mg/kg, far exceeding the national standard of 0.3 mg/kg for food, the report said.
On Monday, the China Alcoholic Drinks Association said on its website that the country's liquor products do contain plasticizers, but the content is far below the standard limit set on such products overseas.
According to a statement posed on its website, the association launched an investigation into baijiu manufacturers on the mainland after plasticizers were found in a range of foods and drinks in Taiwan in May 2011.
"High-grade baijiu products have a higher content of plasticizers, while the content in low-grade baijiu is lower," the association said.
The products were contaminated during the transfer, storage and packing of liquor, because plastic products are widely used during this process, it said.
"But since plastic-related products and equipment have been in use in the production of baijiu since the 1970s, no human illness has been reported due to plasticizers in baijiu until now," the statement said.
Dong Jinshi, executive vice-president of the International Food Packaging Association, said on Tuesday it is possible that these chemicals were added by manufacturers.
"Otherwise, it would not be common to see almost all products contain plasticizers," he said.
Dong said the chemicals help liquor products easily adhere to the glass and enhance flavor.
"Government authorities should clarify the details of the testing of plasticizers in baijiu as soon as possible. And strict punishments for the manufacturers found to be engaging in illegal activities should also been launched," Dong said.
Sales of liquor products by Jiugui Liquor were continuing as normal at the Beijing Hua Tang Yokado Department Store on Tuesday, said Cheng Ning, who is in charge of external liaison in Hua Tang Yokado Commercial Co in Beijing.
"So far, we have not received any official notice to pull any liquor products off shelves. But now I am concerned about the sales of baijiu, which may be affected in the near future," she said.
Bian Chunshan, 26, who worked in Beijing for four years, said he is extremely worried about his health as baijiu was once a frequent choice of drink when he socialized.
"Now I am thinking of replacing baijiu with other types of drinks, such as beer and red wine," he said.
China is conducting research into setting a specific limit for the amount of plasticizers in baijiu, according to the China Alcoholic Drinks Association.