Recent reports reveal that thirteen infants in east China's Anhui Province have died from nutritional deficiency from consuming substandard milk powder. Chinese experts are now calling for strong measures to ensure food security in the country's rural areas.
Recent years have seen rural areas become the largest distributing centers for low-quality and counterfeit goods. Since last May, in Fuyang city, east China's Anhui Province, 171 infants have suffered from malnutrition after being fed with milk powder deficient in protein and other nutrients. Two are still being treated at a hospital. The majority of them live in rural areas.
An official with the China Consumer Association, Wang Qianhu says in order to protect the interests of rural consumers, prohibiting market access to low-quality products is vital.
"Relatively speaking, farmers have insufficient information and are not as capable of distinguishing between good and bad products. So what we need to do is strengthen the checks on market access as well as the business conscience of producers and sellers."
Starting Tuesday, inferior-quality milk powder will not be sold on the Fuyang market. The city has implemented a "market access rule" for milk powder products and has begun recalling inferior milk powder.
Over the weekend, relevant departments raided more than 40 local markets and checked hundreds of brands of milk powder. So far, Fuyang City has confiscated more than 6000 bags of inferior milk powder and sealed nearly 13000 bags. Investigation of key milk powder producers and wholesale agents is under way.
Wang Qianhu notes another way to put an end to inferior products is to impose harsher punishments.
"If you earn 1 million yuan from those products and I fine you 2 million yuan, then you will probably stop producing and selling them. Otherwise, if I only fine you 100 thousand yuan, it is not a deterrent to the production and selling of such low-quality products."
In China, bans on milk powder which fail to reach the national standards of protein content are already in place.
But in some place , the enforcement of the ban is still a big challenge.
(CRI April 23, 2004)