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China-US Meeting to Resolve Food Safety Row
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China and the US will sign a memorandum of understanding on food safety by the end of this year enabling the two sides to resolve food safety issues more effectively, said a senior Chinese quality control official on Wednesday.


A delegation led by a vice-minister-level official of the US Department of Health and Human Services is set to come to Beijing in August to have talks about the signing of the MOU with Chinese food safety regulators, said Li Yuanping, an official in charge of the safety of import and export products at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).


"Both sides are aware of the necessity of establishing such a mechanism to resolve food safety issues more effectively amid rising disputes," Li said.


Li said the two countries would first hold a meeting in Beijing between July 31 and August 4 to discuss the detention of four kinds of China's seafood exports by US officials.


The US representatives will be Rich McKeown and William Steiger, Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to Secretary for International Affairs with the US Department of Health and Human Services.


They would also have preliminary discussions with Chinese food safety regulators concerning the MOU signing and the setting up of a collaboration mechanism on food safety, according to Li.


Li also said that the recent suspension of sale of chicken feet, pig ears and other animal products from seven US companies was conducted according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the administration and the US Department of Agriculture.


The meat was contaminated with salmonella, additives and veterinary drugs, according to the administration.


In response to criticism from overseas, he said that China was not counteracting overseas complaints by picking holes in imports into the country.


It's not the first time China has suspended meat imports from the US -- the administration suspended contaminated meat imports from 15 US companies in 2006, Li said.


Meat imports from 13 of those companies have resumed, according to Li.


The FDA, under the US Department of Health and Human Services, said on June 28 it would detain three types of Chinese farm-raised fish -- catfish, basa and dace -- as well as shrimp and eel unless suppliers could prove the shipments contained no harmful residues unapproved in the US for use in farmed seafood.


Li Changjiang, the top quality control official with AQSIQ, urged the US to "properly deal with the problem as soon as possible" during a telephone conversation with US Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, adding that an "indiscriminate" ban of all exports of such Chinese aquatic products was "unacceptable."


(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2007)

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