BEIJING (Reuters) - Ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co has recalled some infant food in eastern China after it was found to contain lead in excess of the allowable limit, the company said on Monday.
The move by Heinz comes after food safety regulators in eastern Zhejiang province said on Friday that they had found “excessive amounts of lead” in the company’s AD Calcium Hi-Protein Cereal.
Heinz said it is recalling four batches of the product as a precautionary measure after a test found it exceeded the allowable limit for lead.
“This relates to an isolated regional withdrawal in eastern China,” company spokesman Michael Mullen said in e-mailed comments to Reuters. “Extensive testing confirmed that no other Heinz baby food varieties are affected.”
On Sunday the Zhejiang Food and Drug Administration said the problem affected 1,472 boxes in Zhejiang and that Heinz had told the agency it would destroy the other 153 boxes that are sealed in a warehouse in the southern city of Guangzhou.
The regulator urged Heinz to compensate its customers.
Heinz said it “apologizes for any inconvenience caused and would like to assure consumers that Heinz is 100 percent committed to food quality and safety”.
Chinese consumers are highly sensitive to safety concerns relating to infant products after a 2008 scandal involving melamine-contaminated baby milk powder. At least six babies died and thousands more fell ill.
Last year Fonterra said it found a potentially fatal bacteria in one of its products, triggering recalls of infant milk formula and sports drinks in nine countries including China. However, tests later showed the initial finding was incorrect.
Experts say exposure to lead is particularly dangerous for children, inhibiting intellectual and physical development. It can cause poor concentration, disruptive behavior and even death when subjected to high levels.
(In the ninth paragraph, the story adds dropped explanation that later tests showed the initial finding of fatal bacteria was incorrect)
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by David Goodman