Pulverized lime used to bleach Chinese flour: media

BEIJING (Reuters) - Pulverized lime, an inedible ingredient, has been added to bleaching agents widely used in flour production in China, Chinese media said.

China has been in the spotlight in recent years over food-safety scandals, including melamine-tainted milk that sickened thousands of babies in 2008, which have damaged the reputation of the country’s food exports.

Bleaching agents, usually made from cornstarch, are added to flour to shorten the time needed for whitening. Substituting cheaper and heavier lime for cornstarch cuts the cost of producing the bleaching agent, which is sold by weight.

Consumption of Pulverized lime can lead to gradual damage to the lungs and eventually the entire respiratory system.

Yuzhong Food Additive Co. in Rugao, Jiangsu province, on the east coast, added 500g (1.1 lbs) Pulverized lime to every 2kg of bleaching agent, Legal Weekend, a publication run by the official Legal Daily reported, citing whistleblowers in the company.

The company sold bleaching agents to big flour mills in Jiangsu and neighboring Shandong and Anhui provinces.

The owner of the company, surnamed Chen, was cited as saying that his company was able to sell bleaching agent at 9,000 yuan ($1,319) per ton versus the market price of 11,000 yuan.

Flour is mostly used to make noodles, dumplings and steamed buns in China, especially in the north.

Melamine-tainted milk reappeared in the market earlier this year, in apparent re-sales of contaminated powder that was not destroyed after a 2008 scandal in which 300,000 infants were sickened and least six died from kidney stones after drinking melamine-contaminated milk formula.