China Declares War on Unsafe Products

BEIJING, China, August 24, 2007 (ENS) - China's booming economy could be impacted by global rejection of products with made in China labels after a host of recalls of unsafe pet food, toothpaste, toys, tires and seafood in recent months.

To bolster public acceptance of Chinese products, the government Wednesday declared a four-month "special battle" against poor product quality and supervision.

The war extends to eight kinds of products - drugs, pork, farm products, processed food, food in the catering sector, import and export products, and other products related to public health such as toys and electric wires, the official state news agency Xinhua reports.

"This is a special battle to protect the safety and interests of the general public, as well as a war to safeguard the made-in-China label and the country's image," Vice-Premier Wu Yi told a national teleconference in Beijing.

Vice-Premier Wu Yi is in charge of China's product safety effort. (Photo courtesy Government of China.)
Wu, appointed head of a Cabinet-level panel on food safety and quality last week, called for an integrated quality monitoring network across the country, covering product design, raw materials, processing, sales and service.

A sense of quality should be aroused across the whole society, Wu emphasized.

Twenty detailed targets have been set that must be met by the end of this year, she said.

All food producers must be licensed; all pigs must be slaughtered at designated places; all agricultural product wholesale markets in cities must be monitored; all raw material bases for export products must be inspected; and all restaurants and dining halls are now required to check safety certifications when they buy raw materials.

In addition it is now officially forbidden to use five types of pesticides on agricultural products, to sell poultry that die of disease, or to add harmful additives to food.

Wu acknowledged that despite progress made in the past few years, the country did have some "deep-rooted" food and product quality issues.

She blamed a large number of small food plants with poor equipment and management, excessive amount of drug residues, and the use of fake ingredients.

To protect the Made in China label, the government is cracking down on substandard products. (Photo credit unknown)
Li Changjiang, head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said authorities should inform the public of the progress of the special war by holding joint press conferences at least once a month.

A white paper on the country's food safety issued by the government on Friday said the qualification rate of exported Chinese food products has been over 99 percent for many years.

"Yet," the white paper said, "there are still a tiny number of enterprises that disregard the law, regulations and standards of China and importing countries and, by deception or fraud, avoid supervision by the inspection and quarantine authorities, or export food by improper channels."

Despite safety concerns, the country's fast-rising exports show that Chinese products are still popular, Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao told a press conference yesterday.

In the first half of this year, China exported $546.7 billion worth of products, up 27.6 percent over the same six month period last year.

The European Union is China's largest trading partner. In May, 440 different products from China, ranging from toys to cigarette lighters, were reported hazardous by European Union in an annual report.

In addition to the consumer product safety war, China is planning tough new controls on chemicals, explosives and hazardous materials.

A miner trapped by an accident at Dongfeng Coal Mine is carried out by his fellow workers in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province November 28, 2005. (Photo courtesy Government of China)
A proposed law on mandatory company self-supervision and emergency plans was submitted today to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for a third reading.

Under the draft emergency response law, all companies handling hazardous materials will have to hold inspections and draw up emergency plans.

"Coal mines, construction sites, and work units who produce, deal with, transport, stockpile and use explosives, combustible and hazardous chemicals and radioactive material production should establish detailed emergency plans and launch inspections at sites where hazardous materials are produced and stored, so as to eliminate possible risks and avoid emergencies," the draft law states.

An earlier version of the emergency response law provided that "news media that irregularly report the development and handling of emergencies without authorization, or release fraudulent reports" would be handed stiff fines.

That provision was cut from the draft in June after many lawmakers and members of the public argued it could be misused by government agencies to withhold emergency information.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.