Roasted sunflower seeds from Xuancheng, Anhui Province, are suspected of containing inedible chemicals. Photo: CFP
Shanghai's commerce regulator has ordered stores to stop selling 125 kilograms of roasted seeds and nuts sourced from small workshops in Xuancheng, Anhui Province, after a television news expose found that the snack foods contained inedible chemicals, local media reported Tuesday.
"We have launched a citywide campaign asking shops to remove products from Xuancheng from their shelves," said Zhang Yusong, a press officer with the Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce, which is overseeing the case.
The administration has sent 12 batches of the Xuancheng products for testing to confirm whether they contained illicit or harmful substances, according to a press release from the regulator.
Shanghai Television Station reported over the weekend that small workshops in Xuancheng used banned chemicals, including inedible talcum powder, to make roasted seeds and nuts. Most of the unpackaged products ended up being sold in shops in Shanghai.
A salesperson working for a chemical plant near Xuancheng said he knew of at least four workshops that made products with the plant's chemicals, which are only supposed to be used for industrial purposes.
The chemicals mentioned in the TV expose can be used to give seeds and nuts a smoother feel and shinier appearance, said Ji Heli, the secretary general of the Shanghai Food Additive Trade Association.
"Edible talcum powder costs three to five times more than its inedible substitutes. That's why some small workshops choose to use the banned chemicals," Ji told the Global Times.
He added that there aren't any companies that produce edible talcum powder in Shanghai and it isn't a necessary ingredient in the production of roasted seeds and nuts.
The Global Times checked four brands of packaged roasted seeds from a supermarket. None listed talcum powder among its ingredients.
The Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce usually checks stores' invoices to prevent them from carrying products sourced from problematic suppliers, according to its press release. Shops are also required to obtain qualification certificates for certain products before they can sell them in the local market.
Shanghai's quality control watchdog has also initiated a round of local product inspections after an employee from Shanghai CNPC Powder Material Company in Qingpu district admitted to an undercover TV reporter that the company sold inedible chemicals to companies that produce roasted seeds and nuts, according to a report in the Shanghai Morning Post.