China bans flour bleaching agents

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese authorities have banned the production of two food additives commonly used to bleach flour in response to consumer demand for natural foods and reduced reliance on chemical modifiers, according to Chinese state media.

The ministry of health, in a statement on its website, said benzoyl peroxide (BPO) and calcium peroxide are no longer required for incorporation into flour given the fact the country's processing techniques and wheat planting had improved, reports official news agency Xinhua​.

Flour is mostly used to make noodles, dumplings and steamed buns in China, especially in the north.

Manufacturers are no longer allowed to produce the two food agents or use them in flour production beginning May 1, 2011. However, flour and related products containing the additives are allowed to be sold until the shelf life of such products expires.

The move follows a public consultation on the use of such additives in foods, with calls for BPO to be outlawed in the wake of the 2008 melamine contamination incidents.

Approval for the use of BPO in flour production was given in 1986. Under current Chinese food additive regulations, the maximum volume of the additive which can be used in one kilogram of flour is 0.06 grams.

In April last year, Xinhua ​reported that pulverised lime was being added to bleaching agents used in Chinese flour in a bid to cut production costs and boost profits.

Bleaching agents, usually made from cornstarch, are added to flour to shorten the time needed for whitening. Substituting cheaper and heavier lime for cornstarch cuts the cost of producing the bleaching agent, which is sold by weight.

And yesterday saw Su Zhi, director of health inspection and supervision bureau under the Ministry of Health, reveal that Chinese police have arrested 23 people for allegedly producing, marketing or using illegal food additives in 2010.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety