Food safety watchdogs ordered a recall of baby food supplements from three manufacturers in China for containing unacceptable levels of mercury.
Tests showed that 23 out of 830 products tested were contaminated with an average of 0.03mg of mercury per kilogram, which is 0.01mg over the safety standard.
State mouthpiece Xinhua reported on April 30 that the contamination appears to be from deep-sea fish.
Beingmate, one of the companies concerned, issued a statement apologizing to customers, saying: “We will further strengthen food safety monitoring. We feel deeply sorry for consumers,” according to the Shanghai Daily.
Beingmate added that two batches of tuna and sailfish were responsible for the contamination, and these were being recalled.
The other two companies–Bright Beginnings and Heinz–did not issue any comments, but Heinz Qingdao had to recall five batches of tuna baby food on Tuesday, according to the Nanfang Daily.
Bright Beginnings, a U.S.-based company, may not be responsible for the contaminated food being sold under its brandname. The substandard products appear to have been made by a company in Jiangsu Province, whereas Bright Beginnings in America uses a U.S. manufacturer called PBM Nutritionals Co Ltd. and does not sell fish-related baby food in its stores.
When a reporter with Modern Express tried to contact the company in Jiangsu, the staffer said he knew nothing about the mercury contamination and that his boss was away on holiday.
Another Chinese baby food product was found to be substandard this week. The company Wyeth has been re-using milk powder that was recalled because it was packaged incorrectly, according to an undercover reporter with Chengshi Xinbao.
The milk powder was being removed from its faulty packaging, weighed, and repackaged with new formula.
Food scandals like the melamine-tainted formula that reportedly sickened thousands of babies and caused six deaths in 2008 have caused many Chinese consumers to opt for imported products instead of domestic ones.
“When I saw that Heinz tunafish mash contained excessive mercury, I was really upset for quite a while,” one netizen wrote on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo. “The hope that I would get lucky with domestic baby food products is now shattered. I will have to make my own fish or meat mash now.”
Another lamented, “Even in a country this big, there is not any safe food for babies, except maybe breast milk; it’s such a tragedy.”