Yiwu market watchdog regulates the sale of betel nuts

Ke Jiayun
Market watchdog in Yiwu regulates the sale of betel nuts, separating them from food products and removing them from shelves.
Ke Jiayun

The market watchdog in Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province urges food retailers to separate betel nut products and ordinary food for sale, financial media Yicai reported on Tuesday.

Called betel or areca nuts, the stimulant is considered the fourth most addictive substance in the world after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. Some have called the habit the world's "most neglected" public health problem.

On Monday, chengdu.cn, a website belonging to Chengdu Economic Daily, said people at Yiwu's market supervision and administration authority told it that local authorities asked food retailers in the province not to sell betel nut products under food packaging or labels.

Those with the provincial market watchdog said Zhejiang had released notification early this month to ban betel nut products from being sold as food.

The notification's effect will be permanent. Now the Yiwu market watchdog is guiding retailers to remove betel nut products from shelves. If retailers still sell betel nut products after that, they will be punished by the relevant department, chengdu.cn reported.

On Tuesday, Yicai clarified that the officer with the Yiwu market watchdog's food supervision and administration section told its reporter that it doesn't mean betel nut products will not be available in Yiwu.

Such products will be sold separately as betel nut products instead of being placed with the other food on shelves.

So far, Yicai found that many stores and grocers are still selling betel nut products. Some said they haven't received any notifications about removing the products from shelves, while others said they have received notification and are now clearing their stocks and asking customers who need such products to stock up.

A convenient store owner said he is preparing to remove the products from shelves, and the supplier is allowing him to return some of his existing stock.

Chewing betel nut is widespread through Asia, and its popularity in parts of China seems unabated. By 2018, there were more than 60 million Chinese chewing the nuts, and the number is believed to be still growing.

However, chewing the nut brings health risks and long-term use can lead to dental ulcers, gum degeneration and cancers of the mouth and esophagus.

On September 10, Chinese singer Fu Song, 36, died from oral cancer. He used to claim on social media that the cancer was caused by chewing betel nuts and asked the public to keep away from it.

The former national food and drug administration listed betel nut as a top carcinogen in 2017.

The Hunan Betel Food Industry Administration banned all advertising of betel quid in 2019.

In September last year, China banned the promotion of betel nuts, the addictive seeds of the areca palm trees, on television, radio and online programs because of their carcinogenic risks.

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