Thursday, July 15, 2010

International alarm sounds on food inspections in China

Word from China that officials were stepping up food inspections in the wake of last week's seizure of 64 tons of milk powder contaminated by the flame retardant melamine sounds like too little, far too late. This is not the first time contaminated milk has gotten through China's vast and varied food regulatory system; residents have not forgotten the 2008 incident in which contaminated milk killed six kids and sickened hundreds of thousands. The milk seized last week could have resulted in a similar toll or worse -- China still does not have a uniform system of regulating food safety for the entire country. "China attaches great importance to food safety, particularly dairy quality and safety," Chen Rui, a top Ministry of Health official told reporters on Tuesday, according to Cable News Network (CNN). "The ministry will continue to organize the national dairy safety standards to track evaluations, listen to the food production companies and consumer opinion, and constantly revise and improve the national dairy safety standards." If only China's trading partners could believe that. China is usually extremely guarded about such matters and the health ministry did not offer much information beyond saying an investigation was under way. But investigations in China usually get results. In 2008, 21 people were convicted of criminal charges and two were executed in the aftermath of that tainted milk scandal.

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