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Food Safety 'Paramount'
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China needs to "recognize" its food safety situation and take effective measures to safeguard imports and exports, a top official said.

"At present, food safety issues have attracted wide attention globally. Our country has also attached great importance to these issues," Wei Chuanzhong, deputy director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said in a statement posted on the administration's website yesterday.

The statement said Wei, on a recent tour of Hubei Province in central China and Shanghai, China's business center, had ordered local inspection bodies to boost their work.

That included "building up enterprises' administrative levels and management systems" and speeding "up reforms on inspections and quarantines".

In a related development, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday Chinese farm products are getting safer, citing tests of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in major cities that showed more than 95 percent of products were up to standard.

The ministry said on its website (www.agri.gov.cn) that all meat tested in 25 major cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenyang, met safe standards.

The quality eligibility rate of vegetables in 37 major cities was 94.3 percent in terms of pesticide residues, the "highest rate in recent years", it said.

But there were still a few problems. Malachite green, a cancer-causing chemical used by fish farmers to kill parasites, was found in some samples, as were nitrofurans, an antibiotic also linked to cancer, the ministry said.

The ministry this year will strengthen quality and safety controls over farm products and push for standardization in the farm sector.

The State Council has unveiled plans for a food safety information monitoring network covering 90 percent of the country.

Food safety still faces enormous problems in China. Recently, a company in central Anhui Province was caught repackaging for sale more than 2 tons of rice dumplings, two years after their production date.

(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2007)

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