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Beijing Says Food Safe for Olympic Athletes, Tourists

Athletes and visitors heading to Beijing for the Olympics should not be concerned by recent Chinese food scandals, as many safety measures are being put in place for the Games, city officials said.

International alarm over Chinese food exports has been building for weeks amid reports of toxic produce endangering lives in the United States and other countries.

China's own food inspectors announced last week that a six-month crackdown had uncovered industrial oils, acid, cancer-causing chemicals and other dangerous ingredients in thousands of everyday foods sold domestically.

Stung by the string of revelations, the Beijing government is working overtime to ensure that the 10,500 athletes and expected 550,000 foreign visitors to the Olympics are not scared off, or exposed to any safety risks.

Beijing State Administration for Industry and Commerce, one of the departments that oversees the city's food industry, said that dangers do exist but it is taking extensive measures to ensure quality and safety in 2008.

"There are problems with food safety in China, but they are not that serious and should not be exaggerated," Li Dongsheng, vice minister in charge of the administration, told reporters on a recent tour of food inspection sites.

"We are taking into account the security of the people and the consumers and also the need to avoid panic."

City and Olympic officials have already begun implementing rigorous, and occasionally extreme, plans to ensure Beijing's food production and distribution network is working flawlessly for Olympic athletes next year.

Round-the-clock guards will be on duty in Olympic kitchens, food storage areas will be under video surveillance and food transport vehicles will be fitted with global positioning systems.

White mice will also be used to test food destined to be consumed by the athletes.

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