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Soy sauce cancer warning

High levels of potentially cancer causing chemicals have been found in some soy sauce products.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a warning to consumers following the results of tests on 100 samples, of which 22 gave cause for concern.

All of the affected products should be removed from the shelves and consumers should throw away any that they may have

Suzi Leather

However, the FSA has stressed that the majority of samples contained none of these contaminants whatsoever, and that all those from major retail chains were completely safe.

The survey, conducted last year, found that some samples contained a chemical called 3-MCPD at levels considerably higher than those deemed safe by the EU.

About two-thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical called 1,3-DCP which experts advise should not be present at any levels in food.

Both chemicals have the potential to cause cancer.

Specialist shops

The affected products are imported from Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and mostly sold in shops specialising in oriental foods.

Brands to be avoided

Golden Mountain

Jammy Chai

Pearl River Bridge

Lee Kum Kee


King Imperial

Golden Mark


Golden Swan

Tung Chun


It is also alleged that some of the products are counterfeit.

Although a quarter of samples taken posed concern, the actual proportion of the UK market taken by these products is thought to be very small.

The FSA is taking action to ensure that the products identified are removed from sale and that consumers do not use them.

The chemicals could cause harm to people who use these products with most of their meals on a daily basis over a long period of time.

Occasional consumers are unlikely to be harmed.

FSA Deputy Chair, Suzi Leather said: "We want to ensure that consumers of these products are informed of the risks and that effective action is taken to protect them.

"All of the affected products should be removed from the shelves and consumers should throw away any that they may have.

"I want to stress that only a limited range of soy products are affected. We are particularly concerned to protect people who have high levels of consumption, as they will be most at risk from the harmful effects of these chemicals.

Asian communities

This is most likely to be people from East and South East Asian communities.

"Soy sauce can be produced without these chemicals and we expect swift action from the industry to ensure that the planned EU legal limits are met. "

The FSA is issuing information leaflets to communities most affected.

It has also issued a Food Hazard Warning asking local enforcement officers to remove any of the products that may still be on sale.

Both 3-MCDP and 1,3-DCP belong to a group of chemicals known as chloropropanols. Their presence in soy sauce is avoidable.

They are usually produced by the addition of Acid Hydrolysed Vegetable protein to accelerate production


China soy sauce makers protest UK health warning
By Jeremy Page
BEIJING, June 22 (Reuters) –

Chinese soy sauce makers protested and threatened legal action on Friday after Britain's food watchdog said several brands may contain cancer-causing chemicals. And consumers in China -- the world's largest soy sauce producer -- ignored the British Food Standards Agency's warning, stressing instead the health and culinary benefits of the rich, dark condiment.

Three Chinese soy sauce producers whose brands appeared on the FSA danger list denied its charges that their products contained 3-MCPD -- a chemical that can cause cancer if taken daily. Australia and New Zealand have also warned against consuming soy sauce following the FSA survey which found that 22 soy sauce or soy-based products from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand contained 3-MCPD. Some contained another cancer-causing chemical, 1,3-DCP, which experts advise should not be present at any level in food.

An executive at Meiweiyuan, based in the southern city of Guangzhou whose "Golden Mark" brand was on the FSA list, said Chinese provincial quality control agencies had never found detectable levels of the chemicals in its product. "We retain our right to take legal action against the British agency for its irresponsible act," said the executive, who declined to be identified.


Two other state-run food exporters in Guangzhou said brands of theirs that appeared on the FSA list were counterfeits.

Counterfeiting of consumer products is rampant across southern China. "We have long since stopped using the package designs that appeared on the FSA's Web site," said a spokeswoman for the Guangzhou Import and Export Corporation. "We have kept close contact with the agency and they also recognized that those were not our products." Five authentic brands produced by the company had passed the FSA's examinations on the two cancer-casusing chemicals, the spokeswoman said. The corporation issued a statement in the European edition of the Chinese-language Singtao Daily explaining the situation to its customers. Lin Jian, a quality-control officer at Jammy Chai (Guangzhou) Food Co. Ltd. -- also named by the FSA -- said his company had not exported soy sauce to Britain in recent years. "Nevertheless, we have maintained strict safety standards, especially on 3-MCPD and 1,3-DCP. Our soy sauce can meet the requirement of any importers," Lin said. "You can say for sure that those brands are not ours."


In supermarkets in Beijing, bottles of soy sauce remained on the shelves, including the brands which the FSA said were unsafe. And cooks and consumers alike said the uproar did not bother them. Chef Chen Qiurong said soy sauce was a vital part of Chinese cooking and that he would continue to use it. "Almost every Chinese dish needs soy sauce, for example, in spicy stir-fried chicken it adds colour, taste and freshness," said Chen.

As sales manager Li Yi settled down for lunch, he dismissed fears about the safety of his sauce. "I have eaten soy sauce all my life, so have my grandparents," he said. "Nobody's ever gotten cancer because of it." "Foreigners always say their food is healthy while Eastern food is unhealthy -- that's not true. Lots of Chinese eat soy sauce all the time and don't have any problems."

Sincere thanks to Dr. Nguyen Tien for providing us with this important news


Updated: 21-6-2001

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