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China to Update Food Safety Standards
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China will update food safety standards and strengthen enforcement in order to improve food safety, Liu Pingjun, chief of the National Standardization Management Commission, said on Tuesday.

Liu told reporters that China had 1,965 national food safety standards at the end of 2006, 634 of which were mandatory.

China will speed up revisions to national and industry standards on farm produce and processed food products, Liu said, adding that these standards were on average 12 years old.

He said China will strive to keep its standards up to date, make sure none of them is more than four and a half years old by the end of 2010 and ensure that domestic food safety standards comply with international ones.

China is frequently hit by food safety scares. In the latest case, just a couple of days before Tuesday's Dragon Boat Festival, a company in central Anhui Province was caught repackaging for sale more than two tons of rice dumplings, the festival's special treat, that had been produced two years previously.

Despite the worrisome food safety problems, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Tuesday the overall quality of China's agricultural products is improving, with 90 percent of tested vegetables, meat and fish in major cities meeting standards.

All meat tested in 25 major cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenyang, met safety standards, the ministry said.

The quality rate of vegetables in 37 major cities reached 94 percent in terms of pesticide residues, the "highest rate in recent years", said the ministry.

However, malachite green, a synthetic dye used to treat fungal infections on fish eggs and which is considered dangerous for humans, was found in some aquiculture products, the ministry said.

The ministry said it would intensify nationwide monitoring of quality of farm products in production bases, wholesale markets, agricultural trading markets and supermarkets.

The State Council, China's cabinet, has unveiled plans for a food safety information monitoring network covering 90 percent of the country.

(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2007)

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