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April 18, 2005

CHINA: Calls for new rules on jelly sweets after chokings

The deaths by choking of several children have sparked calls for more detailed production standards to cover jelly sweets, according to a story carried by the Xinhua news agency.

The deaths by choking of several children have sparked calls for more detailed production standards to cover jelly sweets, according to a story carried by the Xinhua news agency.

All small jelly sweets of about 3 centimetres in diameter, which can be easily eaten by children, should be taken off the shelves, said Chen Junchao, father of a 19-month-old victim in Shanghai.

Choking on jelly sweets, manufactured by Shanghai Hwa Yuan Foods Co Ltd under the label of a Taiwan-based firm, led to the death of Chen’s daughter on March 26, the agency said.  Medical examinations showed his daughter was “choked to death,” and suffered severe cerebral anoxemia after her trachea was jammed for several hours.

“Some safe eating warnings do exist on the packaging of ‘Hwa Yuan’ jelly sweets, but they made no sense to my young daughter,” said Chen.

According to him, very few sweets brands print warnings on their packaging, which poses a great threat to infants.   Four major Taiwan-based sweets producers have suspended production of small jelly sweets, and have recalled about 50 tonnes of their products in the wake of the young girl’s death, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported.

Industry observers and parents are calling for the revision of jelly sweets’ producing standards. “The design and production of the jelly sweets should be combined with the supervision of a medical expert, who has a good knowledge of healthcare,” said Hong Keming, a deputy to the Shanghai’s Municipal People’s Congress.

Zhang Dezhi, from the China Consumer’s Association, said he hoped production standards could be tightened and standardized. But according to sources with the Shanghai quality and technology supervision authority, current production standards for the sweets contain no clear guidelines for their size.

Two sets of standards issued by the Ministry of Health, the Standardization Administration of China and the National Light Industry Association only have requirements on ingredients, colour, and microbes.

Zhang Lihong, an official with the Shanghai quality and technology authority, said that any standard five years old becomes subject to revision. The current standards have been in place for four years, since November 2001, she said.

Chen’s daughter’s death was the most recent in a series of similar accidents among children aged from 8 months to 10 years from urban and rural China.  Such small jelly sweets have been banned from shelves in the United States, Canada, some European countries and South Korea due to their hazardous nature to young children.

Small jelly sweets are not a good profit generator, but their high market share convinces producers to keep them in the shops. “Reducing the production of small jelly sweets and making them larger is supposed to be a development trend, which can help cut costs and threats to the consumer,” said Huang Jinghong, division manager with BVI Xufuji International Food Corporation.

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