China spending $1 billion on food and drug safety

China will spend more than $1 billion improving food and drug safety by 2010 and the regulator will be given stronger oversight powers, an official said on Wednesday as fears persist over Chinese products.

China spending $1 billion on food and drug safety
China has been struggling to convince the world its produce is safe following a series of scandals over tainted pet food, toys, tires, toothpaste, medicine and fish.

According to a new poll, U.S. consumers are extremely wary of products made in China, and nearly two-thirds said they would support a boycott of Chinese goods.

China's State Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman, Yan Jiangying, said the government had earmarked 8.8 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) for food and drug safety over the current Five Year Plan, which runs to 2010.

Part of this would be spent on a large, new laboratory, she said, adding this was the first time the spending figure had been made public. Yan did not provide a comparison for previous years.

"Once the Five Year Plan has been completed, the abilities and the base of the regulator will be substantially raised," Yan said. "There will be an enormous improvement in the system for guaranteeing food and drug safety for the public."

New rules would give the watchdog the power to seal factories and seize whatever materials they need when probing sub-standard goods, she added.

Yan said her department would also take the safety message nationwide, starting out in the enormous countryside, home to 60 percent of the 1.3 billion population.

"We will focus on rural food safety," Yan said.

A deputy agriculture minister admitted recently that the backward state of Chinese farming was a major obstacle to raising food safety.

Despite repeated government assurances they are taking a responsible attitude towards food and drug safety, there has been little let up in the barrage of bad news.

State media said on Wednesday, the beginning of the one-year year countdown to the Beijing Olympics, the government would launch a campaign to crack down on the use of highly potent and poisonous pesticides which are banned but still in use.

Five pesticides were banned earlier this year, and the Agriculture Ministry was compiling a blacklist of companies still making them, the official China Daily said.

In rural China there was a problem with farmers improperly using chemicals and spraying them on crops just before they were gathered and sold, the report said.

"As part of the government's food safety strategy, it will educate farmers how to properly use pesticides," the newspaper added.

China uses twice as much pesticide annually as is actually needed which has exacerbated the country's food safety problems, it said.

($1=7.569 Yuan)

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Ağustos 2007, 09:27
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