China Claims U.S. Soybeans Tainted

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; 6:30 PM

BEIJING -- China, on the defensive over the safety of its products, lashed out Wednesday at the U.S. by claiming its soybean exports contained pesticides, poisonous weeds and dirt and blaming American manufacturer Mattel Inc. in part for lead tainting that prompted the recall of millions of toys.

China is facing a global backlash following discoveries of high levels of chemicals and toxins in a range of Chinese exports from toothpaste and seafood to pet food ingredients and toys. Beijing has tried to defend its safety record and reassure consumers by highlighting similar problems in other countries.

"Numerous quality problems" have been found with American soybeans, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a notice posted Wednesday on its Web site.

"We've already made exchanges with the United States, demanded an investigation into the cause, and asked that effective measures be taken to improve the situation to avoid similar incidents from happening again," the Chinese watchdog agency said.

One batch of beans in February was found to contain red beans and pesticides that constituted a "great potential hazard to the food safety of Chinese consumers," it said.

Soybeans, which are mainly crushed for oil and used as animal feed, are the biggest single U.S. farm export to China, according to the American Soybean Association. China has bought billions of dollars worth since the current market year began in September.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it had not received any official complaints from China about contaminated soybeans.

"If any of our trading partners has a concern, the normal process with USDA requires that an official notification be made, and none has been raised here," said Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

He added that the problems over the batch of red beans had been resolved in February.

The accusations against the U.S. come as a growing number of countries are rejecting or recalling Chinese exports.

In the latest development, a distributor announced a recall in Australia and New Zealand of Chinese-made blankets found to contain high levels of formaldehyde, a potentially cancer-causing chemical preservative that gives a permanent press effect to clothes.

Earlier this month, El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel recalled 19 million Chinese-made items including dolls, cars and action figures. Some were contaminated with lead paint. Others had small magnets that children might swallow.

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© 2007 The Associated Press