By Xu Chi | 2012-11-22 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
QUALITY watchdogs in Hunan Province have detected plasticizers in samples of Jiugui liquor and are urging the Hunan-based producer to determine the source of the toxic substances.
The announcement by the Hunan Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision yesterday followed a report by news website 21cbn.com that Jiugui liquor contains excessive and toxic plasticizers which could impair male sexual function and even cause liver cancer.
Bureau officials told Xinhua news agency that they tested samples of a Jiugui product and detected plasticizer substance dibutyl phthalate (DBP). According to the officials, the maximum volume of DBP they tested in the samples reached 1.04mg/kg.
China doesn't have a national standard for plasticizers in liquor, but according to a standard for additives in food containers and packaging provided by the China Alcoholic Drinks Association, DBP volume should be below 0.3mg/kg.
The officials have ordered the drink producer, Hunan Jiugui Liquor Co, to find out the source of the substance, Xinhua reported.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai company which carried out tests for the news website said its results were accurate though they couldn't confirm whether the samples tested were Jiugui products.
In an announcement on its official website, Intertek Co said the company was approved by the government to test liquors and the results showing that the samples contained excessive plasticizers were accurate.
The 21cbn.com report on Monday said that samples of Jiugui, selling for 438 yuan (US$70) a bottle, were found to contain excess plasticizers in tests carried out by the company.
In its announcement, Intertek said it received samples from a customer on October 25 who required them to test plasticizer levels.
"But Intertek didn't participate in the sampling progress and didn't know the source of the samples, the method of the sampling, or how the customer preserved the samples before they were checked," the announcement said. "The customer should be responsible for carrying out those procedures."
The company said it had tested the samples according to standard procedures.
"The report of our test results didn't list the brand of the samples and didn't comment on the results," the announcement said. As the customer was responsible for the sampling, the company could not confirm whether the samples were Jiugui products.
On Monday, Hunan Jiugui Liquor Co, based in the central China province, said the Shanghai testing company was not authoritative and it would be sending products to an official facility for checks.
Jiugui Liquor shares listed at the Shenzhen exchange market have been suspended since Monday. The news report also caused a sharp drop in the share price of many other major domestic liquor makers.
Jiugui products were still on sale in supermarkets across the country yesterday, although some stores have removed Jiugui liquor from their shelves.
According to experts, plasticizers are used to thicken liquids, but alcohol products do not need this. The chemicals can cause damage to male fertility as well as digestive and immune systems.
Liu Xuejun, a food science professor of Jilin Agricultural University, told Xinhua there were two possible causes of excessive levels of plasticizers in liquor. They could leak from PVC tubes or vessels used for storage or transportation. Or they could come from flavoring essence.
The China Alcoholic Drinks Association said on Monday that large-scale tests on China's liquor products showed almost all alcohol products contain plasticizers. But it said domestic content of plasticizers in liquor was lower than standards overseas.
The association said the alcohol industry was discussing the limits for allowed levels of plasticizers in liquor.