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News Line: China blacklists 17 food additives

List includes carbon monoxide, formaldehyde

- Steven Hedlund
January 01, 2009

China's Ministry of Health in mid-December publish-ed a list of 17 chemicals and other substances it prohibited for use as food additives. The move came just a week after the agency launched a four-month food-safety campaign in the wake of the melamine-tainted infant formula scandal.

Among listed substances, according to a report from China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, are boric acid, lye and formaldehyde, which is added to water used to soak dried seafood to improve its appearance. Carbon monoxide is also listed. Some processors use industrial CO to preserve and in some cases enhance a seafood product's color.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all CO-treated seafood to be labeled, as it would for any ingredient, but has taken no official stance on its use. The agency classifies "tasteless smoke," a wood-smoke-filtration system that uses less CO than industrial CO methods, as "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS).

CO critics argue the treatment deceives seafood buyers and consumers into believing the product is fresher than it really is.

In testimony submitted to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in November 2007, Michael Picchietti, president of Regal Springs Trading Co. in Bradenton, Fla., said on behalf of the American Coalition for Tilapia that CO-treated frozen tilapia fillets from China will hurt tilapia's image, because consumers will perceive the bright pink color as a sign of freshness.

Picchietti added that FDA's GRAS approval for tasteless smoke has been misconstrued by processors to include the widespread use of industrial CO on tilapia. - S.H.



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