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China Vows to Improve Food Safety in Wake of Health Scares

China has shut down companies involved in some of the highest-profile health scares involving Chinese-made goods and will take further steps to improve product safety, a top official said Friday.

"The Chinese government is moving to address the fundamental problems behind issues relating to food product safety," Li Changjiang, the minister in charge of the country's top product safety agency told a news conference.

Li said the agency had closed two companies involved in the recent case of toxic dog and cat food that killed pets in the United States, and another firm blamed for exporting a toxin later used in toothpaste.

The announcements come as China faces increasing foreign pressure over the quality of its exports, with US President George W. Bush this week announcing stepped-up efforts to intercept dangerous imports.

Bush did not single out China, but the country's export image has been severely tarnished in recent months by regular reports of shoddy or dangerous Chinese-made goods.

Li vowed China would overhaul its inspection and supervision systems.

"China takes seriously issues related to food product safety and is conducting full studies into the establishment of effective supervision methods," said Li, who heads the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

"I believe this will lead to the enhancement of supervision."

Li said China has shut down two companies in eastern China blamed for adding the dangerous chemical melamine to protein products later used in pet food for US and Canadian markets.

The companies used administrative loopholes to dodge inspections, Li said.

Also shut down was a factory in eastern China that produced diethylene glycol, an ingredient normally used in anti-freeze.

The company mislabeled the product as the sweetener glycerin. It was later used in too
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