China plans food safety offensive

Five-year plan outlines stronger export controls after series of health alerts.

    Food safety scares are causing growing alarm in China and for important export markets[GALLO/GETTY]
    In the new food safety plan released late on Tuesday, authorities pledged stronger emphasis on "ensuring food and pharmaceutical safety for the public".
     
    Wave of scandals
     

    Chinese-made toothpaste has come under
    suspicion in several countries [AP]

    "Illegal activities behind production and sale of fake and shoddy foods and pharmaceuticals will be effectively contained," the plan says.
     
    The five-year plan was issued amid a wave of health scandals at home and abroad that have shaken consumer confidence in China's poorly regulated food and drug industries.
     
    It promises to defuse mounting domestic and foreign fears about Chinese-made medicines, farm produce, toothpaste, pet foods and many other daily goods.
     
    "Monitoring and administering food and pharmaceutical safety must be at the very heart of grassroots and base work," the plan warns local officials.
     
    Singapore ban
     
    On Wednesday, Singapore recalled stocks of three Chinese-made toothpaste brands - Hei Mei, Hei Mei Calcium and Maxam with Fluoride - as a precaution after health officials found traces of a substance often present in solvents and anti-freeze.
     
    A spokeswoman on Wednesday said all toothpaste imported from China tested positive for diethylene glycol, or DEG, which was also detected in batches of toothpaste seized in Latin America.
     
    "The problem with DEG arises from its toxicity when consumed and toothpaste may be inadvertently consumed in small doses," she told Reuters.
     
    No poisonings have been reported in Singapore so far.
     
    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week seized stocks of all imported Chinese toothpaste to test for the presence of diethylene glycol.
     
    The FDA said it was unaware of any poisonings from toothpaste containing DEG but was concerned about chronic exposure to the chemical in children and those with kidney or liver disease.
     
    China claimed the US warning was irresponsible saying low levels of DEG were not harmful.
     
    Nonetheless growing domestic media reports about bad foods and lethal medicines have increased public anxiety in China, prompting Chinese leaders to make food safety a priority.
     
    Last month Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the national food and drugs agency, was sentenced to death for dereliction of duty after he was found guilty of taking bribes to speed up the approval of dertain drugs.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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