China promotes safety efforts after scandals over drugs, pet food

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING -- Stepping up their efforts after a slew of scandals surrounding tainted food and drugs, Chinese officials showed off seized goods yesterday to Chinese and foreign journalists and said consumers need not be wary of products made in China.

They also invited reporters to a food-safety laboratory and discussed their efforts to find and test products for harmful ingredients.

"Yes, we have had some problems with the food safety of Chinese products. However, they are not that serious," said Li Dongsheng, vice minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

"We should not exaggerate those problems. We do not want to cause panic."

China is a major exporter, and its problems increasingly have a global impact. Drugs laced with a harmful Chinese-made ingredient reportedly killed at least 100 people in Panama, and pet-food ingredients from China poisoned dogs and cats in the United States, triggering extensive recalls.

The government said yesterday that it had conducted more than 10 million food-market inspections in the past year and found problems at 360,000 businesses. About half of them have been shut down, it said. Without giving details, officials said 16,000 tons of substandard food had been banned.

To ensure food safety in the Chinese capital, officials said, they test about 100,000 random samples each year from local supermarket shelves.

About 5 percent fail to meet safety standards, said Lu Yong, a deputy director at the Beijing Food Safety Administration.

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