China Raising Food Safety Standards

Beijing launches aggressive campaign to win back consumer confidence by issuing new regulations, cracking down on violators and setting up a Cabinet-level panel to monitor quality.

BEIJING (AP) — China is stepping up enforcement against unlicensed food vendors and plans to upgrade quality standards on thousands of food and consumer products by year's end, officials said Tuesday.
As of July, inspectors had uncovered and punished 9,098 unlicensed food makers and other types of vendors, the director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Zhou Bohua, said at a news conference.
Zhou did not give comparable figures for the same period last year, but said the administration was pursuing violators more vigorously, an indication of the pressure the government is under to grapple with China's endemic product safety problems.
''This is a special type of battle to preserve people's health and basic interests, to preserve the trust in and international image of Chinese products,'' Zhou said.
He said the crackdown was part of a previously announced four-month campaign to step up product safety controls. Zhou's agency does not inspect exports and the inspections he described appeared mainly to involve domestic vendors.
Many of China's problems have been blamed on long and often murky supply chains. To address that, Zhou said the government will require before the end of the year all grocery stores, convenience stores, and roadside stalls to keep records, allowing inspectors to trace the origin of food products.
Another product safety watchdog said standards had lagged behind the development of China's economy and needed to be upgraded.
''Rapidly developing trade must have the guarantee of rapidly developing inspection standards. This is the only way to ensure that Chinese products receive fair treatment in the international community,'' Liu Pingjun, director of the Standardization Administration of China, was quoted as saying at a national conference on Monday.
Liu's comments were posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, one of the government's main product safety watchdogs.
The administration's notice said 3,395 standards for food and consumer products would be amended by the end of this year. All food and consumer products ''closely related to human health and safety'' would be required to meet international standards and ''foreign advanced standards,'' it said without giving specific examples.
Chinese-made products have come under intense scrutiny around the world over the past six months after toxins were found in exports ranging from pet food ingredients to toys.
Overcoming its initial reluctance, Beijing has launched an aggressive campaign to win back consumer confidence by issuing new regulations, cracking down on violators and setting up a Cabinet-level panel to monitor quality.
Among those measures are increased scrutiny of vegetable exports that have sometimes been cited for high levels of pesticides.
An administrator at the Shandong Rizhao Qiangdi Food Co. in eastern China on Tuesday said tighter Chinese government standards had severely cut the company's exports of garlic and ginger.
''We are unable to export garlic and ginger to the United States now as the government has adopted a stricter standard,'' said the woman, who gave only her surname, Man.
Man declined to say how much garlic and ginger the company exported, calling that a commercial secret. She said American importers also had suffered severe losses. Imported Chinese garlic is much cheaper than that produced domestically in the United States.
The tighter rules on garlic and ginger were confirmed by a clerk who answered the phone at the Shandong Provincial Inspection Bureau, a local branch of AQSIQ. The man refused to give details or his name.
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