Japan revokes Vietnamese chili sauce over food safety

By Dy Tung, Le Nga   April 6, 2019 | 05:43 pm PT
Japan revokes Vietnamese chili sauce over food safety
Chin-su chili sauce bottles appear on Osaka news portal for violating safety regulations in Japan.
Japan has recalled 18,168 chili sauce bottles from Vietnam for violating food safety and food labeling laws.

The Osaka Information Portal reported Tuesday that the bottles were imported from Vietnam to Japan by the Osaka-based Javis Co., Ltd last December, and sold to the Kobe-based ISC Industrial Co., Ltd.

Javis Co., Ltd never mentioned that the imported chili sauce contained benzoic acid, which is banned from all chili sauce in Japan, before selling it to ISC Industrial Co., Ltd, the portal said.

Japanese authorities determined that the bottles contained between 0.41 to 0.45 grams of benzoic acid per kilogram of chilli sauce, after suspicions arose that ISC Industrial Co., Ltd was violating the country’s laws on food safety and food labeling.

The Masan Group, which produced the chili sauce under the brand name of Chin-su, said it never exported the chili sauce to either Javis Co,. Ltd or ISC Industrial Co. Ltd. It said it only exported the product to the United States, Australia, Russia, the Czech Republic, China and Taiwan.

"As we have no [chili sauce] sample in hand right now, we have no official conclusion on the origins of the bottles. However, it is likely that they are either exclusive for the Vietnamese market, or their origins are unknown," the group stated in a press release.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has yet to receive any official statements from Japan about the Chin-su case, Tran Viet Nga, deputy head of the Food Safety Department, said Saturday. But it is taking steps to clarify the matter, she added.

"Benzoic acid is allowed as a food preservative according to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), in which both Vietnam and Japan are members. In accordance to standards from the CAC, the levels of benzoic acid found in the chili sauce revoked by Japan were still within international standards," she said.

"Maybe Japan just has tougher requirements."

Japan bans benzoic acid in its chili sauce, but allows its presence in certain food products like syrup, margarine or soft drinks. Vietnam allows a maximum amount of one gram of benzoic acid per kilogram of chili sauce.

The World Health Organization says a person can consume five milligrams of benzoic acid per kilogram of body weight daily without adverse health effects.

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