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Safe Food, A Likely Scenario

Much work still needs to be done to allay consumer fears about food safety though some progress has been made since the Ministry of Agriculture launched a pilot program offering contaminant-free food in four select cities in April.

This conclusion was reached by officials attending a two-day conference called to exchange views on the project Wednesday in Shanghai, one of the four cities.

Representatives from the ministry, the agricultural departments of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen and officials from more than 10 cities supplying agricultural food attended the conference.

"The central government is giving high priority to food safety," said Fan Xiaojian, vice minister of the ministry. "To guarantee food quality and safety will be a major task of the nation's agricultural plan next year."

He said there still exists a big gap between China and developed countries when it comes to food hygiene, packaging and processing. Generally, about 70 percent of vegetables, fruit and pork can pass quality inspection in the country.

"The central government has vowed to spend one year realizing the goal wherein laid-off people and low-income families can also have access to safe agricultural food and meat," he said.

Officials of the four cities agreed that the toughest problems they face are pesticide residue on vegetables and the use of Clenbuterol, a chemical that makes pigs leaner, in pork.

To combat the problems, it has been made mandatory for big farms to keep a record of the pesticide and feed used during the production process, said Zhou Taitong, deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai municipal government. Officers test the pigs' urine before the pork is sent to the market.

"Farms that offer tainted pork will be shut down," Zhou promised.

He also said the city will appropriate a special fund to conduct a survey of city farms. Those that don't meet the requirements of producing contaminant-free food will be closed.

(eastday.com December 13, 2001)

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