SHANGHAI, Sept 24 China's food safety watchdog
has launched an investigation into local juice makers after a
media report said they used rotten fruit to make their products.
The probe includes two branches of the country's sector leader,
China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd.
Farmers in several Chinese provinces sold rotten fruit to
distributors, which was then bought by canned fruit producers
and juice manufacturers to cut costs, the 21st Century Business
Herald said in the report on Monday.
"We take this very seriously and have urgently deployed food
safety teams in Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong and other provinces to
immediately open an investigation," the China Food and Drug
Administration (CFDA) said in a statement on their website, seen
by Reuters on Tuesday.
Food safety is a serious topic in China where scandals from
milk laced with industrial chemicals to recycled "gutter oil"
for cooking have left many consumers wary. A recent Pew Research
report said almost four in 10 Chinese people felt that food
safety was a "very big problem".
Huiyuan, once an acquisition target for The Coca-Cola Co
, said that after an initial probe there was no evidence
that the company had used rotten fruit to make its juice,
according to a statement on its website.
The CFDA added Huiyuan's Shandong unit had not produced any
juice since the end of last year, while it had not yet found any
rotten fruit on site at the company's Beijing branch. It added
that there was as yet no evidence of rotten fruit at the Anhui
unit of China Haisheng Juice Holdings Co Ltd or at the
Jiangsu unit of Yantai North Andre Juice Co Ltd.
China's poor food safety record has hurt global firms such
as KFC parent Yum Brands Inc, while local milk powder
makers have struggled to shrug off a deadly melamine scandal in
2008 which led to the deaths of at least six babies. Melamine,
which is used in plastics production among other things, was
added to milk formula to fraudulently boost protein levels.
To deal with food security, China has expanded a pilot
system that tracks the movement of meat and vegetables to the
Shares in Huiyuan were up 3 percent at midday, rebounding
after falling to a three-week low in trading on Monday.