BEIJING (Reuters) - Almost one-fifth of veterinary drugs tested in China in the first quarter were not up to standard, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Thursday, unveiling a long list of fake products.
Still, that one-fifth figure is a slight improvement over the same period of last year, the ministry said, putting a positive spin on the announcement.
"Although more of the veterinary drugs tested were up to scratch, there remains a problem with the illegal production and sale of fakes," it said in a statement posted on its Web site (www.agri.gov.cn).
"There is especially a glaring problem with underground dens selling fakes," the ministry added, vowing tougher action.
It published a five-page list of problem drugs it had found, saying some claimed to be made by companies that don't exist, some falsely claimed to have government approval, while others had been banned long ago.
Others were just undisguised fakes.
"We will keep taking proactive measures, striking hard against the illegal behavior of the production and sale of fake and shoddy veterinary drugs, raise standards and guarantee the safety of food made from animals," the ministry said.
Fresh scandals involving substandard food and medicines are reported by Chinese media almost every day, and the issue has burst into the international spotlight since tainted additives exported from China contaminated pet food in North America.
The Beijing Evening News said that a former official with the food and drug regulator, Cao Wenzhuang, had gone on trial charged with accepting 2.34 million yuan ($307,100) in bribes and dereliction of duty. He pleaded innocent.
Cao's former boss, watchdog head Zheng Xiaoyu, was sentenced to death in May for corruption. He has appealed.
The government has been trying to reassure consumers.
Earlier this week, the agriculture ministry said tests of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in major cities showed that more than 95 percent of products were up to standard.
Yet it admitted to a few problems. Malachite green, a cancer-causing chemical used by fish farmers to kill parasites, was found in some samples, as were nitrofurans, an antibiotic also linked to cancer, the ministry said.
Public fears about food safety grew in China in 2004 when at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui after they were fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value.