Since much of the world sees the Beijing Olympics as China's coming-out party, Chinese quality control officials have to assure that the party enjoys safe food.
They have been doing everything to ensure that, and yesterday they reiterated food in China is as good as anywhere else in the world.
"We're 100 percent confident about and more than capable of providing safe food for the Games," deputy quality watchdog chief Pu Changcheng told a State Council Information Office press conference.
Some foreign media reports have alleged China's food safety and air quality have prompted 20 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and the US, to hold their training camps in Japan instead of China this summer. In response, Pu said such worries were "totally baseless ".
"Please rest assured. The Chinese government will do everything necessary to ensure safe food for the Games," said Pu, vice-minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
He said all food products supplied for the Olympics will be made by accredited companies that have passed stringent scientific and market tests. All such products have to carry a safe quality label.
Major food products, such as meat and vegetables, must come from designated farms, and all food products will undergo repeated and tough inspections from the production stage to the kitchen, he said.
The success of the just-ended special campaign against sub-standard products is another reason that Pu is confident about safe food for the players and officials during the Games.
"The tasks of the rectification campaign have been fulfilled completely and all its objectives reached. Illegal practices of using non-food material and/or recycled food to make and process food products have been eliminated. Abuse of food additives such as preservatives and colors, too, has almost stopped."
Pu's demeanor when he made the remarks exhibited his confidence. He had a smile on his face, rarely seen since mid-last year when the quality of China's food products hit the headlines after tainted additive exported from China contaminated pet food in North America. The incident was followed by extensive reports on allegedly unsafe seafood, candies and toys from China.
AQSIQ head Li Changjiang conceded that last year was a difficult time for Chinese quality supervision departments. "It was a year full of sweet, sour and bitter experience."
"We've never been under such tremendous pressure, but we've never made such great progress in such a short time either," he said. "Our efforts have turned something bad into good."
But both the officials, and Vice-Premier Wu Yi who headed the four-month campaign, have warned that the special battle against sub-standard products will continue in order to ensure further improvement.
"In my personal opinion, there will definitely be rebounds," Wu said at a national conference early this month. "We should be prepared for that."
Pu, too, conceded yesterday that food quality problems still exist in China's vast countryside where many small factories are situated. One of this year's objectives will be to step up supervision over those small manufacturers.
"We must fight to solve the problem of their unstable product quality and lack of safety in the shortest possible time," he said.
Expediting legislation and framing 10,000 national quality standards are the other targets to be fulfilled this year, according to AQSIQ's work plan. The total number of national quality standards will reach 31,000 by the end of the year.
Measures on toys
This year's work plan calls for tougher measures against high-risk products such as toys, garments, furniture, paint and detergent, too.
More than 600 Chinese toy makers have had their export licenses revoked since August to ensure safety, Pu said.
"We have inspected all 3,000-plus toy makers thoroughly for export in the special campaign."
Pu said that since design flaws were behind many quality problems, the administration made it mandatory for all toy designs, even those provided by importers, to go through safety checks.
Last year's safety scares, however, didn't affect China's toy export. Customs figures in Guangdong Province, which produces 70 percent of the country's toys for export, show export demand rebounded late last year despite many recalls.
The value of toys exported by Guangdong fell 5.4 percent in September year-on-year, but bounced back to register a year-on-year increase of 27.6 percent in October.
(China Daily January 15, 2008)