Formaldahyde and Tsingtao

By Bryan • china, environment • 9 Mar 2006

This topic came up during weekly cheers at Cheese Pub, and naturally I was concerned over the possible presence formaldahyde, substance used to preserve dead bodies (among other things) floating around in my favorite brew (actually, Harbin Pijiu is my choice brand, yet a 5RMB variety has yet to be discovered in a bar setting).

I was surprised that I hadn’t picked up on this earlier as allegations regarding the said ingredient surfaced (resurfaced?) during the summer of 2005. Apparently formaldehyde is used as a agent to lighten the colour and lengthen product shelf life and has been used for years without any reported or noticeable health side effects. Yet formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen by many international standards organizations and it is possible that consumption of large quantities of formaldehyde-containing beer increases the burden on the liver, and that long term consumption will affect reproduction.

Tsingtao initially denied the accusations, stating that they had abandoned its use years ago, as did several other major brewers. However, after the controversy moved into the public sphere, the government led testing produced results which indicated the presence of formaldehyde in Chinese beer, although 95% of the beer produced contains levels of formaldehyde that are below UN set international health standards.

The SAQSIQ found all the domestic beer products under sample investigation contained formaldehyde of less than 0.9 milligrams aliter, the danger line set by the WHO, while one liter of the imported beer contained 0.10 to 0.61 milligrams of formaldehyde on average.

The 23 products from eight domestic brand-name enterprises including Tsingdao and Yanjing breweries contained an average of 0.10 to 0.56 milligram of formaldehyde a liter, a level equal to or even lower than imported beer, it reported.

Tsingtao now admits that its beer contains formaldehyde (from 0.1 to 0.3 milligram/liter) yet claims it is naturally occurring, and that they don’t add additional amounts.

Given the lack of affordable alternatives, I’m going to put my faith in CCP government testing on this issue and not remove Tsingtao from my menu. Nevertheless, I think I’m going avoid the numerous lesser known and smaller brands of beer in China.

Although…..it can lead to blindness to drink Chinese beer for a long time.

One a somewhat related topic, please visit the Tsingdao Brewery website for an example of a high tech and highly effective age verification system.

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3 Responses

  1. lurking_administrator

    This is a heated issue last year. So far there’s no blindness to drink China-made beer. However Japan and Korea did recall beer imported from China and that’s all. No worries. It’s safe to drink brand-name Chinese beer. The original media report is sort of misleading. Believe in the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (SAQSIQ) about this. Can’t be wrong. Sounds like advertising. But no seriously.

  2. I’ll believe you lurky, largely because I want to as, from time to time, I drink copious amounts of Tsingdao!

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