Provincial authorities have confirmed that a high-end band of Chinese liquor contains a harmful chemical, while the liquor association has defended the company saying there is no national standard regulating the use of the plasticizer.
The Hunan Institute of Product Quality Supervision and Inspection announced on Wednesday that up to 1.04 milligrams per kilogram of the chemical, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), was found in the famous Jiugui brand of the traditional Chinese liquor known as baijiu. The Hunan quality watchdog has ordered the Jiugui Liquor company to determine the source of the plasticizer.
Experts say the chemical used in plastics may cause harm to the human immune and reproductive systems.
The 21 Century Business Herald reported on Monday that 1.08 milligrams per kilogram of the plasticizer could be found in the Jiugui Liquor.
The China Alcoholic Drinks Association said on its website that it is irresponsible to claim the plasticizer found in Jiugui brands exceeded standards because there are currently no such standards on the Chinese mainland.
The amount of the chemical found in Chinese liquor products is much lower than the standards set by other countries, claimed the association.
The Xinhua News Agency reported that DBP was also found in some samples of imported liquor.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the chemical residue found in the liquor likely comes from plastic containers, tubes and other materials used during a product's production, storage and transport, reported Xinhua on Wednesday.
The watchdog has ordered liquor makers to adjust the way they handle and package their product, said Xinhua.
"Now the government should get involved and let the public know what kind of harm the plasticizer might cause," Zhang Yongjian, director of the Research Center for Development and Regulation of Food and Drug Industry, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Shen Danyang, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, said at a regular press briefing Tuesday that the ministry is working on a food security tracking system, which is expected to better supervise the food production chain.
According to the ministry's website, the system can trace the origin of harmful product and hold accountable those who are responsible. The tracking network so far covers 35 cities.
"The industry should now improve production techniques and materials, and there should be standards in place," Zhang said.
The Ministry of Health released a notification on its website Tuesday soliciting proposals for making national standards for food security in areas where standards are absent. These include standards for additives and food containers.