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'Special War' Launched to Raise Quality
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The government Wednesday declared a four-month "special war" against poor product quality after a spate of safety concerns over Chinese products worldwide.

Eight categories of products are involved: Pork, drugs, agricultural products, processed food, catered food, import and export products, and miscellaneous products related to public health, such as toys and electric wires.

Twenty detailed targets to be met by the year-end have been set.

For example, all food producers require mandatory licenses; all pigs must be slaughtered at designated sites; all agricultural products from wholesale markets in cities must be monitored; all raw material bases for export products must be inspected; and all restaurants and dining halls must hold safety certifications when they purchase raw materials.

There are some prohibitive regulations as well. For instance, five types of strong pesticide used in agricultural products are banned; as well as selling diseased poultry, or putting harmful additives into food.

"This is a special war designed to protect the safety and interests of the general public, as well as a war meant to safeguard the made-in-China label and China's image," Vice-Premier Wu Yi said during a national teleconference yesterday in Beijing.

It was Wu's first meeting on quality control after being appointed head of a Cabinet-level panel on food safety and quality control last week.

She acknowledged that despite the progress that had been made in the past few years, the country did have some "deep-rooted" problems regarding food and product quality.

The list includes a large number of small food plants with poor equipment and management, excessive amount of drug residues, and the use of fake materials. Poor supervision and overlapping enforcement powers have to be addressed as well, according to Wu.

She said it was essential to establish and develop "two chains, one system and one network".

The chains refer to the supervision of the entire production process of industrial and food products. The system is a product recall and accountability system; the network refers to a comprehensive quality monitoring system in every corner of society.

"If successful, food safety and product quality in the country will be lifted to a new stage," Wu said.

She also stressed zero tolerance toward violators, including producers and vendors, and government officials who fail to perform their duty.

The campaign is the latest by the government to improve product quality.

The past month witnessed not only the setting up of a Cabinet-level panel on food safety and product quality but also many significant documents as well. Currently they include a blacklist of illegal importers and exporters, a special regulation on better quality supervision, and a White Paper on food safety.

Despite safety concerns, the country's fast-rising exports show that Chinese products remain popular, Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao told a press conference yesterday.

In the first half of this year, China exported US$546.7 billion worth of products, up 27.6 percent over the same period of last year.

"The growth shows that most importers, retailers and consumers have a fair and understanding attitude toward Chinese products," Wang stated.

(China Daily August 24, 2007)

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