Food safety officials have called for more stringent inspections and testing of exports following several scares involving Chinese products.
Li Changjiang, minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, urged local inspectors to shoulder the "political responsibility" of ensuring the safety of food exports.
"Food safety is not only related to people's health, but also the country's image as well as bilateral and multilateral political relations," he said during a recent inspection tour in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
In one incident that drew international attention, the administration announced last month that two Chinese companies exported melamine-contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein which was used in pet food blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats in the United States.
The watchdog said the two companies managed to evade quality check-ups by labeling them as exports that are not subject to inspection.
Wei Chuanzhong, the administration's deputy head, also expressed concern about food exports and pledged to address the issue.
"This has put us on a high alert and led us to look closely into the reasons behind the problems."
Both Li and Wei called for better law enforcement, and warned violators that they face the full force of the law.
In another move to strengthen food safety, the government yesterday made public guidelines on food and drug safety.
One of them is that major food exporters should have their own raw material production bases, where vegetables and poultry are raised according to internationally recognized standards.
Bi Kexin, a senior official with the administration's import and export food safety bureau, said a blacklist of enterprises that produce poor animal food has been posted on its official website, and it is updated constantly.
(China Daily 06/07/2007 page1)