China will take further measures to ensure that all aquatic products in the country are free of hazardous drug residues, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture has said.
The measures include a nationwide inspection on the use of drugs, a blacklist of violators and better education and training of farmers, Chen Yide, vice-director of the ministry's fisheries bureau, told China Daily in an interview.
He acknowledged that despite the progress made in the past few years, drug residues are still found in some aquatic products from a very small number of unscrupulous farms which are driven by profits.
"Therefore, further efforts are needed to eradicate the problem, especially the residue of antibiotics," he said.
Chen revealed that efforts would be made in the following fields:
Launch an inspection to crack down on the illegal use of forbidden drugs and chemicals in fish farms, and to check licenses of the farms.
Establish a database of violators and place them under close watch.
Speed up research on new drugs and vaccines.
Give farmers proper training and keep them informed of relevant standards.
Bring China's drug residue measurement up to international standards.
In response to a recent US ban on five types of seafood products from China for allegedly containing illegal drug residues, Chen said the move was unfair and unscientific.
"It's against the rules of the World Trade Organization to block all products for problems found in individual products," he said, adding that the great majority of fishery products from China are up to the standard.
He cited the latest ministry tests to say that at least 95 percent of Chinese aquatic products met food safety standards. For instance, he said, 99.8 percent of aquatic products met the standard in terms of chloramphenicol (an antibiotic) residue this year, up from 87 percent in 2003.
A higher percentage of export products met the standard because the government applies stricter inspection and quarantine benchmarks on outbound products, he explained
Ministry figures also show that despite safety concerns about some China-made products this year, exports of aquatic products have recorded strong growth.
In the first five months, the country exported US$3.83 billion worth of aquatic products, up 15 percent over the same period last year.
In a related development, a delegation headed by officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) arrived in Beijing yesterday on a five-day fact-finding mission on food and drug safety.
(China Daily August 1, 2007)