China to improve standards for food safety

Updated: 2007-06-20 11:30

BEIJING - China will update and strengthen enforcement of its food safety standards, the head of the country's regulatory body said.

Reports of food poisonings or tainted food have been frequent in China, and the government has also become increasingly worried about growing international alarm over the safety of its food and drug exports.

"China will speed up revisions to national and industry standards on farm produce and processed food products," Liu Pingjun, chief of the National Standardization Management Commission, said in a statement posted Wednesday on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Liu said China had 1,965 national food safety standards at the end of 2006, 634 of which were mandatory, but that "the standards were on average 12 years old."

He said the goal was to ensure that domestic standards complied with international ones and that none of them were more than 4-1/2 years old.

Liu did not say what was wrong with the current standards or how they differed from international ones.

In the latest food safety scare in China, a company was ordered to stop production after it was found to be repackaging the filling from two-year-old rice dumplings.

Officials in east China's Anhui province ordered a recall of all "zongzi," a traditional snack made of glutinous rice and other fillings usually wrapped in bamboo leaves, made by the manufacturer, Wan Maomao Frozen Food Co., said the official with the Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau in Anhui's capital, Hefei.

There were no reports of anyone falling ill from eating the dumplings, but the recall highlights the shortcuts some companies take in order to make profits.

Zongzi are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat festival each June, and last week the national quality inspection administration said 10 percent of rice dumplings made by 133 producers nationwide had failed tests because they contained excessive amounts of food additives.

The tests showed that the leaves contained high amounts of copper sulfate or copper chloride, normally used to make the leaves bright green.

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