China bans catering business from using nitrite as food additive

China’s health departments have banned catering businesses from adding nitrite salts to processed meats.

The Ministry of Health and State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) jointly announced the decision Tuesday, following several food poisoning cases.

Under Chinese laws, nitrite salts, a group of industrial salts, can be added to foods, such as sausages and smoked meats, as a preservative and coloring agent but only in very small and limited amounts.

Some restaurants, diners and snack booths have been found adding them to meat products they prepare themselves.

In April last year, a one-year-old girl died of nitrite poisoning after eating fried chicken bought from a street vender’s booth in Beijing.

Using additives like nitrite salts needs to be done carefully and professionally under strict supervision, which can not be realized at restaurants or snack booths and thus increases food safety risks, Wednesday’s Beijing Times quoted an unnamed official with the Ministry of Health as saying.

However, professional food processing plants were still allowed to use it in line with regulations, he said.

Xinhua