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New standards to ban bleaching of pistachios

05-24-2010 08:32 BJT

BEIJING, May 24 -- Regulators are busy drafting food safety standards for pistachios to prevent widespread bleaching of the product, experts said.

"Due to traditional eating habits, bleached pistachios are prevailing in China because of their 'clean look'," said Weng Yangyang, secretary-general of the committee for seeds and nuts of the China National Food Industry Association.

The association will create a set of standards within the year, regulating the production of several nuts including pistachios, peanuts and almonds, Weng said on Saturday during the World Nuts and Dried Fruit Congress.

The bleaching of pistachios will be addressed in the standards, Weng said, adding that the introduction of the standards is expected to improve the industry's product qualities and food safety.

The standards will establish regulative and legal matters within the nuts industry, she said.

A draft of the standards will be posted on the association's official website in late July to solicit public comments and suggestions.

"Data collected within the industry shows that 90 percent of the pistachios sold in the Chinese market have been bleached," said Fang Ming, dean of the food science and engineering department at the East China University of Science and Technology. Pistachios have become a major snack in China only within the past few years, Fang said. With no knowledge of the nuts' natural look, most consumers mistake the white-shelled pistachios as the good ones.

"The bleaching is to cater to the mass consumer idea of 'the brighter, the better', which covers up quality flaws. Most people may not know the nuts have naturally light creamy shells," Fang said.

Bleaching pistachios is against the country's Food Safety Law, he said.

"According to article 45, the law allows the use of food additives only when it's technically necessary, but the bleaching of pistachios is obviously not appropriate," Fang said.

"The often-used bleacher peroxide is also listed as an assistant item in food processing and requires cautious use," he said.

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