Sun, Apr 01, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Angry Birds mug causes safety flap

By Liu Jung, Hung Su-ching and Yang Ya-min  /  Staff reporters

A man points an X-ray fluorescence analyzer at an Angry Birds mug, of the type involved in the Carrefour promotion, on Friday.

Photo: Liu Jung, Taipei Times

Limited-edition Angry Birds mugs on sale at the nation’s largest hypermarket chain contain excessive levels of lead and cadmium, a Taipei City councilor claims.

Following a global frenzy triggered by the popular Angry Birds computer game, Carrefour in February launched a bonus-point scheme whereby customers could exchange points for mugs featuring the various Angry Birds characters.

However, Taipei City Councilor Pan Hwai-tzong (潘懷宗) on Friday said the items contain more than 9,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead and about 2,500ppm of cadmium.

Pan said he sent the mugs for analysis after he had seen his daughter put one of the mugs in her mouth. He was worried the bright red enamel could contain high levels of toxic heavy metals.

The analysis showed that the rim of the red mug contained 370ppm of lead and 1,970ppm of cadmium, while the “eye bags” of the Angry Bird contained 9,275ppm of lead and 2,595ppm of cadmium, or 90 times more than the US standard of 100ppm of lead in toys and food utensils for children under the age of 12, he said.

Commenting on the analysis, Pan said that if the mugs were used for drinking soda, the phosphate in the drink could dissolve large amounts of the heavy metals. Long-term consumption of heavy metals is known to put children at serious risk of developing mental, neural and bone damage.

In Taiwan, current examination standards and regulations for hazardous substances in food containers are lax, Pan said.

The current maximum permitted levels of lead and cadmium in food containers are 5ppm and 0.5ppm respectively.

The maximum permitted levels of lead and cadmium in toys are 90ppm and 75ppm respectively, and no maximum levels have been stipulated for food utensils for children, said Pan, who called on the central government to implement such regulations to safeguard children’s health.

Gaston Wu (吳家誠), a chemistry professor at National Taiwan Normal University, echoed Pan’s concerns, saying the penalties for marketing or manufacturing toys or food utensils with high lead content were relatively light, with fines only ranging from NT$100,000 to NT$1 million (US$33,700) and offenders allowed to pull illegal products off the shelves first to improve them.

In response to the allegations, Carrefour said its Angry Birds mugs conformed to the Sanitation Standard for Utensils, Containers and Packages (食品器具容器包裝衛生標準), and based on inspections carried out by the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Center before the promotion was launched, the items were within the safety limits specified by the EU, US and Taiwan.

According to officials from the Food and Drug Administration, the mugs did not contravene regulations, and Taiwan’s testing standards had been modeled on those of Japan.

Taipei Food and Drug Division Director Chen Li-chi (陳立奇) acknowledged the current inspection regime and punishment schedule was rather loose, and said he would propose amendments to the central government and demand that operators label products with warnings.

Additional reporting by Lo Chien-yi

Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer

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