China Says US Food Has Its Own Problems

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 19, 2007; 8:14 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Chinese Embassy says China is working to stop the export to the United States of tainted food and substandard products but said Americans should first deal with flaws in their own system.

A statement issued by the embassy Thursday spoke of recent cases of contaminated local food in the U.S. domestic market and flawed exports of pork and poultry, which the statement said Chinese inspectors had to ban from distribution in China.

U.S. news reports are exaggerating the significance of adulteration in products exported to the United States, the statement said, and more than 99 percent of U.S. imports from China were without flaws.

The statement, issued only in Washington, did not mention moves in the United States to protect imports, including a new Working Group on Import Safety established Wednesday by President Bush. The administration denied that the panel was to target China.

"The Chinese side hopes that the U.S. side will respect science and treat China's food and drug exports fairly, will not exaggerate or play up individual food safety cases and still less (create a) 'China threat' in the field of food and drugs," the statement said.

Such activities, it said, form "the misimpression among the U.S. public that all food and drugs imported from China are unsafe."

Americans became worried about Chinese exports early this year when dogs and cats began dying after eating pet foods made with ingredients tainted with the chemical melamine. In quick succession came stories of toxic fish, juice containing unsafe color additives and popular toy trains decorated with leaded paint.

Safety officials ordered a U.S. tire importer to recall as many as 450,000 tires that it brought in from China and sold to U.S. distributors. Both the importer, Foreign Tire Sales Inc., and the Chinese government have denied that the tires are dangerous.

Chinese-made toothpaste also has been banned by numerous countries in North and South America and Asia for containing diethylene glycol, or DEG, a chemical often found in antifreeze.

Thursday's statement repeated assurances from the government in Beijing that DEG has not been found to have poisoned anybody but said the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China's health safety watchdog, has banned its further use in toothpaste.

As a result of the months of worry in the United States about Chinese imports, the statement said:

_Port inspection of export shipments destined for U.S. markets has been stepped up, with 100 percent open container inspection. Any shipment with discrepancy between goods and documents or with quality or safety problems will be banned from export.

_In addition to legal action against export companies that have violated the law, an online blacklist has been established to publish their names.

_Quick responses will follow notification from importing countries of problems with exports, with immediate investigation, analysis and settlement.

_Regular news conferences by AQSIQ, the quality safety agency.

"It is our hope that, on the basis of safeguarding bilateral cooperation and exchanges, governments concerned will properly handle food safety issues and treat Chinese food exports in a scientific and fair manner," the statement said.

"Certain isolated cases should not be blown out of proportion to mislead the public into thinking that all food from China is unsafe."

Exaggeration and complication of such issues, it said, "is not conducive to healthy growth of bilateral trade or to the overall bilateral relations."

The United States is China's second-largest export market for food after Japan.

© 2007 The Associated Press