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Quality watchdog investigates silicone use in bun steamers
By Hu Min

SHANGHAI’S quality watchdog has launched an investigation into the use of silicone gel in bun steamers.

The move comes in response to concerns that the gel found in steamers at some food stalls might not be suitable for use in catering, the Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau said yesterday.


A layer of gel is used in steamers to prevent buns from sticking to the bottom. The job was previously done by a sheet of bamboo or gauze.

Once the tests have been conducted, a safety appraisal will be made, said Shen Weimin, the bureau’s deputy director.

“There is no specific national standard on the quality of these products so consumers are wise to take care,” Shen said.

The national standard on rubber products for food-related applications does not specify the scope of use or maximum temperatures, he said, adding that the bureau is planning to introduce more specific rules in the future.

Despite the lack of regulations, any food seller found using silicone gel that does not have clear details of which company produced it will be punished, the bureau said.

Shanghai has only one manufacturer of silicone gel for food-related use, and the bureau is checking its products, Shen said.

Ren Jie, a professor with the school of materials science and engineering at Tongji University said silica gel is commonly used for food-related purposes.

But low quality, or industrial-grade gel containing polyvinyl chloride and other toxic substances can be hazardous to people’s health, he said.

Liu Huiping, founder of Babi Catering Management Co, which sells steamed buns, said his company uses gel as it is more hygienic than bamboo sheets.

The silica gel used in Babi’s steamers is imported from Germany and has been approved by China’s inspection and quarantine authorities, he said.

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