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China's Food Quality up to Standard
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Chinese food products are getting safer, the top quality watchdog said yesterday.

It said tests on 3,384 different kinds of foodstuff showed about 86 percent were up to standard.

The products, from 2,777 processing companies, involved 35 categories, including milk, beer, jelly, fruit juice, milk powder, canned goods, and dried food and nuts.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, to reassure consumers following a number of safety scandals, said records of the past 22 years showed the safety of food products had been steadily increasing since 1998.

"The proportion of food products tested and qualified in the first half was the highest in recent years," Ji Zhengkun, director of the administration's quality inspection department, said. He did not give figures for previous years.

Beer, fruit juice and dried food and nuts saw the biggest improvement in quality, he said. Tests from January to last month showed that 89.3 percent of beer products met required standards, 5.2 percent higher than last year, and 80 percent of fruit juices, up 4.1 percent.

Figures showed 92 percent of dried food and nuts were also up to required standards. Inspectors did not find any excessive use of food additives, a problem once common in dried food.

For those that did not qualify, Ji said irregular labeling was mainly to blame. At least 97.5 percent of juices tested were up to standard, if labeling was not taken into consideration.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Agriculture said farm products were safer than before, citing tests on fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in major cities.

Ji attributed the quality improvement to stricter supervision and the implementation of a market access mechanism.

But he admitted there were still problems. Excessive use of food additives and pathogenic bacteria such as the coli groups were found in some samples.

Reports of substandard food often appear in the media and the issue burst into the international spotlight when allegedly tainted additives, exported from China, contaminated pet food in North America.

However, Ji said one company's problem did not make it a national problem. "If some food is below standard, you can't say all the country's food is unsafe," he said. "We must have confidence in our foodstuff."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang yesterday accused the media of playing up food safety issues.

"China has been very responsible in this regard to ensure the good quality and safety of its exports," he said, warning that the widespread media coverage would "lead to panic among consumers".

Qin said more than 99 percent of food exports to the US in the last three years had met quality standards, or even higher than the equivalent figure for US food exports to China.

(China Daily July 4, 2007)

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