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China launches drive for food and drug safety

Category:[world] [CHINA] [National]


A vendor sells cooked food at a market in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning province June 6, 2007. China will launch a sweeping offensive against dangerous medicines and bad food, the government announced in a new plan that also promises stronger international cooperation. [Reuters]

China will launch a long-term offensive against dangerous medicines and bad foods that have alarmed consumers, the government announced in a plan that vows stronger export controls.

The five-year plan was issued amid a wave of health scandals at home and abroad that have shaken consumer confidence in China's food and drug industries.

"Ensuring food and pharmaceutical safety for the public must be the starting point and destination of all work," states the document issued on the government Web site (www.gov.cn) late on Tuesday.

The campaign promises nationwide monitoring of adverse reactions to drugs, special inspections to cover 90 percent of food production businesses, and strict controls to stop farmers and producers over-using pesticides and additives.

This one promises to defuse mounting domestic and foreign fears about 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," it says.

China has faced a lash of international criticism, especially from the United States, claiming that the ambitious exporter has let fake products seep into the global marketplace, menacing the health of consumers.

The United States has banned animal feed containing an illegal and sometimes lethal additive in vegetable protein shipped from China.

Following the United States and Latin American countries, Singapore on Wednesday became the latest nation to ban some toothpaste brands from China after finding traces of a potentially dangerous additive.

The new plan calls for inspections in farmlands, factories and ports to stop toxic products reaching consumers.

Beijing is reacting to deepening domestic anxiety about the safety of food and drugs as well as concerns voiced abroad.

In late May, the former head of the national food and drugs agency, Zheng Xiaoyu, was sentenced to death for taking bribes and dereliction of duty.

And on Wednesday local media reported that Shanghai prosecutors had charged a brother and sister with producing and selling millions of yuan worth of fake health-food products in dozens of cities.

The five-year plan vows that in coming years "illegal activities behind production and sale of fake and shoddy foods and pharmaceuticals will be effectively contained."



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