Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 10 News List

No methanol in our beer, Tsingtao says

LIQUOR OF DEATH?Lawmakers and consumers' groups are calling for an investigation into reports that some Chinese beers may contain the carcinogenic chemical methanol

STAFF WRITER WITH CNA , TAIPEI

China's premier beer brand, Tsingtao Beer, said yesterday that it does not contain methanol in the brewing process, refuting a Liberty Times report that many China-produced beer brands reportedly contain the cancer-causing chemical.

"Tsingtao has not added methanol to its beer for many decades," said Peter Tsai (蔡清富), deputy general manager of the company that distributes Tsingtao in Taiwan, the Taiwan Tsing Beer Corp (台灣青啤).

Tsai was responding to recent reports that Shenzhen-based Jinwei Beer Co (金威啤酒) claims to be the first Chinese brewery to not use methanol.

Methanol is a colorless, toxic, flammable liquid that can be used as an antifreeze, a general solvent, a fuel or a denaturant for ethyl alcohol. Medical studies show that continued consumption of methanol-containing alcohol is harmful to human health.

Tsai said Jinwei's claim is simply outrageous because it implies that most other Chinese beer brands use the chemical in the beer-brewing process.

Jinwei's claim has caused concern among local health authorities and consumers as China-brewed beer has enjoyed increasing popularity, where drinkers consume about 550,000 tonnes of beer a year.

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (台灣菸酒公司) said yesterday that Taiwan-brewed beer is free of methanol.

"Our beer meets world standards of quality," said Morgan Hwang (黃營杉), chairman of Taiwan Tobacco. "We have never added that cancer-causing substance [meth-anol] to our product."

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday urged the government to conduct an overall inspection on all beer brands imported from China.

"If any Chinese beer is found of containing the banned substance, it should be pulled from shelves right away and the distributor of the beer should be held responsible for possible health damage," said Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), secretary-general of the foundation.

In response, health authorities said they will look into China's beer inspection procedures and standards. In addition, the Ministry of Finance said it will check whether Chinese beer contains any methanol.

Tsingtao Beer and rival Beijing-based Yanjing Beer entered Taiwan's market last year following termination of the nation's alcohol-production monopoly held by the state-controlled Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board (菸酒公賣局).

Tsingtao captured nearly 8 percent of the market last year and is expected to take 12 percent market share this year, Tsia said. But it remains to be seen whether the methanol report would affect Tsingtao's sales, he added.

Currently, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp has about 74 percent of the domestic beer market with its Taiwan Beer brand. The company hopes to increase the beer's market share to 80 percent this year, Hwang told the Taipei Times in early May.

Taisan Enterprise Co (泰山集團), the local distributor of Yanjing Beer, would not make any comment, saying the company has no knowledge of the report.

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