BEIJING - The food safety problems were not as bad as reported
and the authorities were enforcing safety protections and supervisions, a
senior Chinese official said Tuesday.
"Yes, there are now some problems
of food safety of Chinese products. However, they are not serious. We should not
exaggerate those problems," Li Dongsheng, vice minister for the State
Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters at a food
An officer from the Beijing Administration for Industry and
Commerce (BAIC) office look at fake or non-standard products on display at
a BAIC food safety monitoring center in Beijing Tuesday, June 12, 2007.
China has developed "very good, very complete methods" to regulate product
safety, Li said.
China's poor safety record has increasingly come under scrutiny as its goods
make their way to global markets. Major buyers such as the United States, Japan,
and the European Union have pushed for Beijing to improve inspections.
The pressure has increased in recent months as US inspectors have banned or
turned away Chinese exports including wheat gluten tainted with the chemical
melamine, reportedly blamed for dog and cat deaths in North America.
The US Food and Drug Administration has also stopped all imports of Chinese
toothpaste to test for a deadly chemical reportedly found in tubes sold in
Australia, the Dominican Republic and Panama.
In response, Chinese safety officials have urged better surveillance at all
levels and promised to set up a food recall system, the country's first, by year
"We are very concerned about food safety in China," Li said. "But we do not
want to cause panic among the people."
"There is now largely no problem with food safety," Li said.
At the Beijing food lab, technicians wearing white coats tested packages of
spring rolls, dumplings and other frozen foods for toxic chemicals.
In another room, a variety of fake products were displayed including
Wrigley's chewing gum, Shiseido skin care products and Levi's jeans.
Li said government food safety procedures include a hot line set up in 1999
that has grown into a surveillance network of local groups and government
Local industry and commerce authorities have conducted widespread inspections
of department stores, supermarkets, outdoor markets and wholesale markets, the
State Council, China's Cabinet, said in a statement.
It said 4.6 million inquires, complaints and reports were received last year
from consumers and 16,000 tons of unsafe food products were ordered withdrawn
from the market in 2006. It did not give details of the products or why they
The statement said the surveillance network has also expanded to focus on
consumer protection, trademark protection, food safety supervision and