Vietnam searching for arsenic tainted German beer

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Vietnam's health authorities are checking if German beers contaminated with arsenic are being sold locally, after a study found those sold in Germany contain more of the poison than is currently permitted by world health standards.

The Vietnam Food Administration under the Ministry of Health made the announcement last week, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

Previously the administration also sent a request for information regarding news reports about German beers found contaminated with arsenic to the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer.

In a reply to the Vietnamese agency, the German ministry said between 2003 and 2013, it had checked 633 beer samples and found 153 of them contained arsenic.

Except for three samples with arsenic levels of 13-18 micrograms per liter higher than allowed by German rules the majority of samples tested below the standard level, it said.

The arsenic levels are so small so they cannot cause harm to consumers, it said.

In April, it was reported that a team from the Technical University Munich (Germany) found the arsenic level in most of 140 tested beer samples was slightly higher than the safety level prescribed by the World Health Organization for drinking water - 10 micrograms per liter.

The scientists, however, said the levels are "low" so they do not threaten human health.

They said the contamination came from a filtering material called kieselguhr, or diatomaceous earth. The material is used during the beer manufacturing process to remove yeast and other particles to give the drink a crystal clear appearance. It is also used in the filtration of other food products.

According to the scientists, the material has substitutes and the arsenic can be removed by washing the material with water before use. 

Chronic arsenic poisoning has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, skin lesions and numerous forms of cancer. These diseases may take years to manifest. And, while the symptoms of arsenic poisoning are treatable in the short-term, there is no way to reverse its long-term affects.

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