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China is Cracking Down on Food Safety

Late on Tuesday, the Chinese government published a five-year plan to intensify inspections and tests on exported food. The five-year plan claims that illegal activities behind production and sale of fake and shoddy foods and pharmaceuticals will be effectively contained in future. The Chinese government has been under pressure to act on the mounting concern both at home and abroad regarding the poor quality standards of Chinese-produced food and medicines.

Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration was convicted on charges of taking bribes and of dereliction of duty. The verdict came as the government announced plans for the first ever recall system of unsafe food products.

Analysts believe that Zheng's death penalty is a calculated response of Government's intention to put an end to the numerous scandals related to poor quality of food products and medications in China The Chinese Government has also stepped up its patrols in recent weeks, announcing a series of measures aimed at strengthening food and drug safety and cracking down on counterfeiting operations.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, 'The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and security of food.' She also said, 'We stand ready to work with the international community to safeguard the quality and reputation of the Chinese food industry.' Singapore is the latest country to take action against import of Chinese toothpaste.

Singapore has banned three brands of toothpaste imported from China, after tests showed they contained diethylene glycol (DEG). In Panama last year at least 50 persons died presumably due to the chemical diethylene glycol (DEG). On Tuesday, a document published on a government website stated:'Monitoring and administering food and pharmaceutical safety must be at the very heart of grassroots and base work'

According to Li Changjiang, the head of China's main food safety agency, food safety is not only a problem related to law enforcement, but also to the people's health and safety, the country's image, and bilateral and multilateral trade relationships. US officials have already warned consumers against using Chinese- toothpaste.

On Thursday Nicaraguan health authorities confiscated 40,000 tubes of Chinese- toothpaste after confirmation that they contained DEG. The Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica have already swung into action and removed thousands of tubes of Chinese toothpaste from store shelves.

At times, DEG is also used in medicines as a low-cost, though potentially deadly, substitute for glycerine sweetener.US inspectors have also faulted exported Chinese pet food ingredients, containing melamine, for the deaths of pet animals in North America.


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