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Chinese Processors Blame Tuna For Mercury In Baby Food

A recall of 23 kinds of baby food supplements from Heinz, Beingmate and Bright Beginnings has been ordered after tests revealed levels of mercury above the permitted standard.

The food supplements were among 830 infant food supplements tested.

The 23 contained an average of 0.03mg of mercury per kilogram, 0.01mg higher than the standard, food safety watchdogs found.

The products were all made from deep-sea fish, and that was believed to have been the source of the toxic substance, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

Though experts say there are no health risks associated with such a small amount of mercury, watchdogs still ordered three manufacturers - Zhejiang Beingmate Scientific-Industrial Trade Share Co Ltd, Heinz Qingdao Food Co Ltd and Yancheng Futong Food Scientific Industrial Co Ltd - to recall their products.

Beingmate, headquartered in Hangzhou City, issued a statement saying that two batches of dried fish floss made from tuna and sailfish and produced between July 2012 and March had been tested as substandard and a recall had been launched.

The company said the fish was to blame for the contamination. “We will further strengthen food safety monitoring. We feel deeply sorry for consumers,” the statement said.

US-based Heinz and Bright Beginnings haven’t commented on the recall order.

However, Bright Beginnings’ products may not be the ones which failed tests as they are said to be produced by PBM Nutritionals Co Ltd in the US, while the tainted products were made in Yancheng in eastern Jiangsu Province but marketed under the same brand name.

The Yancheng company and Brilite Nutritionals (Shanghai) Co Ltd, which imports the US brand to China, couldn't be reached for comment.

Also yesterday, it was reported that leading brand Wyeth had been repackaging substandard milk powder at its Suzhou factory that had failed to reach the market.

The company said that when there were flaws in packaging the powder would be removed and put back on the production line, but only after it was tested as safe.

Chinese customers have lost confidence in domestic baby formula after a series of safety scares, including the melamine scandal of 2008 when six babies died and about 3,000 were sickened after consuming melamine-tainted milk products.

Imported formula now has a 75 percent market share in major cities, according to Wang Jinghai, vice director of the China Dairy Association.

But imported milk powder can have problems too. Earlier this year milk powder from New Zealand was found to contain melamine.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine is introducing stricter rules on imported dairy products from today.

Companies are required to produce documents to Chinese embassies in their countries or their embassies in China to verify the quality of their products. Reports on bacteria and pollutants are also required.