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Report says Chinese bean sprouts tainted

Associated Press / April 21, 2011

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BEIJING — In the latest food scare to hit China, authorities in a northeastern city have found bean sprouts tainted with banned food additives to make the vegetables grow faster and look shinier, state media said yesterday.

The Legal Daily newspaper said police in Shenyang had seized 40 tons of bean sprouts treated with the chemical compounds sodium nitrite and urea, as well as antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzyladenine. Police arrested 12 people in connection with the seizure over three days last week.

Sodium nitrite hinders bacteria growth in food but can be toxic for humans and is carcinogenic. The plant hormone that was used is also banned as a food additive, the paper said.

China has been hit by numerous food safety scandals in recent years, ranging from seafood tainted with illegal antimicrobials to baby formula laced with melamine, an industrial chemical.

The Legal Daily said the bean sprout problem has been going on for years, and it was even the subject of a local media report three years ago, but authorities failed to crack down then.

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