WORLD NEWS

China agency denies claim of supplement cover-up

Apr 10, 2012, 12:52 PM

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) – China’s scandal-plagued food and drug agency defended itself Tuesday against media reports claiming it covered up problems with excessive lead in domestic supplies of spirulina, a popular algae-based health supplement.

One state media report said the State Food and Drug Administration’s allegedly conflicting statements about the Chinese spirulina industry triggered an investigation into whether the agency was taking bribes. The SFDA didn’t directly rebut or repeat the corruption allegation but defended its inspections of the supplement, taken as pill or powder.

A spokesman for the Beijing Procuratorate said Tuesday he was unaware of any such investigation but would look into it. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, he would only give his surname, Yang.

The SFDA has struggled to recover its reputation since a former commissioner was executed in 2007 for taking bribes. A string of food and drug safety problems since then, from shoddy medicine to melamine-tainted milk formula that killed six babies in 2008, further eroded public trust in the regulators overseeing China’s food and drug safety.

The agency said it stands by the March 30 results of an inspection of more than a dozen spirulina brands that found only one containing excessive lead and arsenic. The problem brand was Conthealthy sold by the Xingfulai Pharmaceutical Group in Fujian province.

However, an internal SFDA document from February that was first reported last month by the official Xinhua News Agency had suggested contamination of Chinese spirulina was widespread and listed 13 brands suspected of having excessive lead, arsenic or mercury.

That internal report prompted Xinhua to order independent tests of spirulina and the news agency reported last month that six out of eight store-bought samples had excessive levels of lead, including one that exceeded national limits by 820 percent.

The Economic Information Daily, a Xinhua paper, reported Monday that the SFDA’s apparently conflicting reports had triggered a corruption investigation by Beijing prosecutors. It said Economic Information Daily reporters had provided investigators information and evidence from their reporting.

The SFDA said Tuesday that its internal and public statements weren’t conflicting. It said the internal document referred to unconfirmed suspicions while the March 30 was based on lab tests. It also said said algae has higher allowable lead levels than other food products.

Lead damages the nervous system and is particularly dangerous for children and fetuses. Small or short-term exposure can be treated, but high levels can cause birth defects, brain damage and other problems. Environmental sources and ingestion are the most common ways people are exposed.

A woman who answered the phone at Xingfulai, the company cited by the SFDA for lead and arsenic, said staff were away on business trips and unavailable for interviews.

A sales agent whose number was listed on the Xingfulai site said only one batch of the company’s spirulina was found to have problems and had been traced to a supplier who used polluted water. He refused to give his name.

Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago currently residing in Beijing who is an expert in Chinese regulatory issues and the SFDA, said the agency is still dogged by the corruption scandal that led to the execution of its former commissioner Zheng Xiaoyu in 2007.

Though its significantly tightened drug inspections and improved its transparency, Yang said the SFDA remains understaffed and overwhelmed. He said quality control of supplements and herbal medicines has probably not been a priority at the agency and may have slipped through the cracks.

Yang also said it was good that state media were challenging inspections and taking the initiative to do their own.

“It just shows how this agency gets no respect from the leading Chinese news media, which in fact is quite encouraging” because it means the media is playing a watchdog role, said Yang.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

A jet takes flight from Sky Harbor International Airport as the sun sets over downtown Phoenix, Ari...

Associated Press

Climate change has made heat waves last longer since 1979, according to study

A new study says climate change is making giant heat waves crawl slower across the globe with higher temperatures over larger areas.

24 days ago

FILE - Kate, Princess of Wales and Prince William travel in a coach following the coronation ceremo...

Associated Press

Kate and William ‘extremely moved’ by support since the Princess of Wales’ cancer revelation

Kate, the Princess of Wales, and her husband, Prince William, are said to be “extremely moved” by the public’s warmth and support following her shocking cancer announcement

29 days ago

Kate, Princess of Wales, is seen visiting to Sebby's Corner in north London, on Friday, Nov. 24, 20...

Associated Press

Kate, Princess of Wales, says she is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer

Kate, the Princess of Wales, said Friday in a video announcement she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

1 month ago

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen visiting the SKA Arena sports and concert complex in St. P...

Associated Press

Putin extends rule in preordained Russian election after harshest crackdown since Soviet era

President Vladimir Putin sealed his control over Russia for six more years on Monday with a highly orchestrated landslide election win.

1 month ago

President Joe Biden walks towards members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn...

Associated Press

U.S. military airdrops thousands of meals over Gaza, many more airdrops expected

U.S. military C-130 cargo planes dropped food in pallets over Gaza on Saturday in the opening stage of an emergency humanitarian assistance.

2 months ago

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who reportedly died in prison on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Alexei Navalny, galvanizing opposition leader and Putin’s fiercest foe, died in prison, Russia says

Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died Friday while incarcerated, the country's prison agency said.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

China agency denies claim of supplement cover-up