23 August 2002

Dangerous Jelly Confectionery Banned Nationally

A jelly confectionery which has been responsible for at least 15 deaths world-wide in recent years has been banned nationally from today.

The victims, mainly children, choked to death on mouth-sized jellies containing a binding agent called konjac.

One of the victims was a three-year-old Sydney boy in 2000. There were eight other deaths in Japan, five in the United States and one recently in the UK. Last year a two-year-old Queensland girl almost choked to death when one of the jellies lodged in her throat.

Unlike gelatine-based jelly products, jellies containing konjac do not dissolve readily in saliva and must be chewed thoroughly before being swallowed.

Announcing the ban under the Trade Practices Act, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Senator Ian Campbell, whose portfolio includes responsibility for consumer protection policy, said the jellies were an unacceptable threat to the public, especially children and the elderly.

"When accidentally swallowed whole, which is the great risk with infants and old people, the products act like a plug and cut off the air supply," he said.

"The jellies are sold mainly through Asian food stores and have been on the international market for many years.

"They are popular, but obviously very dangerous."

Senator Campbell said Food Standards Australia New Zealand last November asked that jellies containing konjac be removed from sale because they breached the Food Standards Code, however authorities recently reported that the products had reappeared on shop shelves.

"Some States and the Northern Territory have had their own bans in place for some time, but the time has come for an all-out national crackdown," he said.

"By imposing a national ban under the Trade Practices Act, we are sending a loud and clear message to importers, wholesalers and retailers that they face very severe penalties for breaking the law -- up to $220,000 for individuals and $1.1 million for companies.

"The ban will be vigorously enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission."

Senator Campbell urged parents to check cupboards and dispose of any mini-cup jellies containing konjac, also known as glucomannan, conjac, konnyaku, konjonac, taro powder and yam flour.

The jellies are cup-shaped and generally about 3cm deep and 2cm in diameter.

Those containing konjac are often labelled as high fibre jelly.


23 August 2002

Further information: Wayne Grant (02) 6277 3955 or 0407 845280