Thousands of boxes of jelly sweets have been removed from the Shanghai market because the warnings on the packages against the danger of eating the product were almost unnoticeable, the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said.
According to the Xinhua news agency the move is in response to the death of a 19-month-old baby who choked on a mini-cup jelly last month, an incident that has sparked nationwide concern about the jelly’s hazard to babies, and calls for a ban on mini-sized jelly cups.
But officials refused to say whether the 3,000-plus boxes belonged to the disputed small-sized category or reveal the producers’ name, noting they cannot ban sales of the mini-cups.
“There’s no state standard on the cup size. Besides, there’s no proof that the small size was the cause (of the baby’s death),” said bureau food supervision division chief Zhu Ming.
The current state standard only rules on jelly production sanitation and package label. But doctors said the dangers of jelly to children are obvious.
The Fudan University’s Children’s Hospital alone has handled five to 10 cases of children choking on jelly each year over the past two years. In the past two months alone, it received three young patients, including the 19-month-old baby, said Lu Guoping, a hospital doctor.
“It is very slippery and can easily slip into children’s windpipes when they suck it from the cup, and get stuck in the throat,” said Lu. If not removed in time, it can suffocate the children, and cause permanent damage to their lungs and brains even after it is removed, he said.
The local choking case is not the first involving Sheng Hsiang Jen Foods, producer of the jelly.
The jelly cups were dubbed “the deadly mouthful” in Japan after being linked to eight deaths and 80 choking incidents since 1995. Michelle Enrile, 9, died of brain damage in California after swallowing one of the company’s jelly cups. Her parents sued Sheng Hsiang Jen Foods. A jury found the firm liable and awarded the couple US$16.7m in 2003, Xinhua said.
According to a survey by Sina.com and China Central Television, 54% of the 5,405 respondents believed that companies should stop producing mini-cup jelly despite an absence of state standard on its size.