Warnings and directives for fermented foods, counterfeit foods and beverages issued by government

Will Kreznick

All the warnings and directives were issued by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), with particular emphasis on the safety of fermented foods due to a lethal mass food poisoning case in Heilongjiang province last year where nine members of a single family died after eating homemade suantangzi (fermented […]

All the warnings and directives were issued by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), with particular emphasis on the safety of fermented foods due to a lethal mass food poisoning case in Heilongjiang province last year where nine members of a single family died after eating homemade suantangzi (fermented corn noodles).

The cause of the mass food poisoning was determined to be high concentrations of the respiratory toxin bongkrekic acid in the noodles, produced by the bacteria Pseudomonas cocovenenans​.

“Recently, there have been cases of food poisoning in several local areas involving the consumption of suantangzi (noodles made from fermented corn flour), shimifen (rice noodles) and Jew’s ear fungus, which have even led to deaths,”​ said the SAMR in its warning on fermented foods.

“Investigations have revealed that the cause of these issues is due to the presence of bacteria such as Pseudomonas cocovenenans found in some of these fermented products, and with Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival approaching and more families gathering to celebrate, this warning is issued in hopes of preventing further food poisoning occurrences.”

SAMR emphasised that bongkrekic acid is a key factor in causing food poisoning and death, and that fermented grain foods and spoiled tuber products are considered high-risk items for this to be present.

“The incubation period for the bacteria is short, usually between 30 minutes to 12 hours, and the toxin produced will act on several target organs such the liver, brain, kidney and others – major clinical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness, and it is important to note that at present there are not specific drugs that can treat this,”​ said the agency.

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