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Consumer Product Safety 'Top Priority'
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After a spate of health scares that have led to mounting anxiety over the safety of Chinese exports, a top official yesterday said China is a responsible country and always puts the safety of consumers first.

"We pay a great deal of attention to consumer safety," said Li Chuanqing, vice-minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which is in charge of ensuring the safety of the country's exports.

Li told the International Consumer Product Safety Conference in Beijing that the government has been working hard to protect product quality and people's health.

Chinese firms have been involved in a number of product safety scandals recently. The administration confirmed earlier this month that two companies had exported pet food with melamine-contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein, which was blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats in the United States.

Li, while not directly addressing any of the recent cases, said that it was important China works with the rest of the world to deal with the quality problems.

He said China is the largest exporter of consumer products in the world, but more than half the exports are products processed according to investors' samples and specifications. "If designers and importers fail to provide accurate information and requirements, it could cause product safety problems as well," he said.

Figures from the Ministry of Commerce show that export volume reached a record high of $969 billion last year, with consumer products accounting for a large share.

Nancy Nord, acting chairwoman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, said Washington would get tough on consumer product safety.

She said the new Democrat-controlled Congress is very interested in how her agency addresses the issue of imported consumer products.

Mark Dewar, a board member of the conference's co-host, the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization, said despite a number of safety problems, international consumers' confidence in made-in-China products has greatly increased in recent years because of improved quality.

He said it was progress that Beijing is hosting the international consumer product safety conference. "They are hosting this conference ... They want to listen to how the leading countries are doing this."

(China Daily May 22, 2007)

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