Cookware produced by Supor, the Chinese manufacturing giant in which Tefal brand owner Groupe SEB last year bought a majority stake, is at the centre of a damaging health scare.
A report on China Central Television last week alleged that some of Supor’s stainless steel cookware contains excessive amounts of manganese. Taken in quantity, the chemical is said to cause hallucinations or symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease.
Groupe SEB has strenuously denied the allegations, insisting that Supor cookware’s manganese content “is in line with the strictest international standards”.
However, trading in Supor shares was suspended briefly following the television programme, and yesterday they suffered their biggest loss in almost two weeks, dropping 2.4%.
Retailers in China are also reported to be removing Supor cookware from their stores, and offering refunds to customers.
The allegations are said to relate to around 80 of Supor’s lower-price products, including soup pans, steamers, milkpans and kettles.
Supor is China’s largest cookware manufacturer and one of its biggest producers of small kitchen appliances. Last year Groupe SEB – whose brands include Rowenta, Krups and Moulinex as well as Tefal – increased its stake in the company and now owns 71.31% of it.
Supor acts as an original equipment manufacturer for the French company, but also reportedly increasingly provides its branded products to the group.
Defending the quality of its cookware, Supor said that most countries, including China, did not have standards for the amount of manganese in cookware. However, it stated that it had had its products tested and certified as safe by the standards of Italy, which it said was the only developed country that specified manganese limits.
Meanwhile, Groupe SEB put out a statement the day after the television programme saying that it had seen its share price “drop significantly this morning [February 17] with important volumes of transactions.
“Groupe SEB points out that Supor vigorously protests the allegations made by CCTV…reaffirming that its products comply fully with Chinese standards and that the amount of extractable manganese is in line with the strictest international standards. This last point has been confirmed in analyses conducted by world-renowned independent laboratories.
“Groupe SEB reaffirms that it always complies with the most demanding standards in all its global operations and regularly and diligently monitors product quality indicators.”