BEIJING — Six people have been detained, several wineries shut down and bottles pulled from shelves in China after authorities found wine containing several chemical additives, state media said Monday.
The incident in Changli county in the central province of Hebei -- an area dubbed "China's Bordeaux" -- is the latest food safety scare to rattle consumer confidence in a country still reeling from a deadly 2008 tainted milk scandal.
An expose broadcast by state television revealed that wineries were doctoring their beverages with sugar water, colouring agents and artificial flavourings, and then falsely using famous brand names, the Global Times said.
The newspaper quoted a leading industry expert, Huang Weidong, as saying the additives could cause cardiac irregularities and headaches, and were possibly carcinogenic.
"We are highly concerned about this behaviour. To ensure safety measures, we have already started to remove the suspected wines from the shelves," a spokesman for Beijing area Wal-Mart stores, Zhang Tao, told the paper.
The Xinhua news agency reported that provincial authorities had shut down nearly 30 wineries. Corporate accounts with funds totalling 427,000 dollars have been frozen, the Global Times said.
More than 5,000 boxes of wine have been seized, the reports said, though it was not immediately clear how much of the adulterated wine was already on store shelves.
Changli county produces one third of China's homegrown wine, state media said.
The reports come as China gears up for New Year and Lunar New Year celebrations -- a time when alcohol purchases traditionally increase.
The Chinese government has come under increasing pressure from its citizens as well as foreign countries to improve the standard of its food and medicines.
In a scandal in 2008, at least six children died and around 300,000 fell sick after consuming powdered milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, which was added to make products appear higher in protein.
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