China rejects pork imports from U.S., Canada

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has rejected shipments of pork kidney from the United States and of spare ribs from Canada after finding traces of a banned growth agent in them, in the latest volley of cross-border accusations over product quality.

The Xinhua news agency cited the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) as saying that the 18.4-tonne shipment of frozen kidneys and the 24-tonne shipment of frozen pork ribs had been returned to the exporters by local quarantine officials in southern Guangdong province.

The growth agent ractopamine, commonly used in the United States, is at the centre of negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials over the pork trade.

China has banned use of ractopamine and refuses to import pork containing it.

Richard Raymond, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s undersecretary for food safety, said on Thursday following meetings with the AQSIQ that he hoped Beijing could change its stance on ractopamine if Codex Alimentarius, an international food safety body, could endorse tolerance levels for it.

China has highlighted several quality concerns over U.S. products in recent months, in apparent response to complaints in Washington about the safety of Chinese exports ranging from toys to toothpaste.

Beijing is also taking steps to clean up its own manufacturing sector, whose reputation has been tarnished by recent product recalls, including for lead-tainted toys.

Separately, Xinhua said that authorities had reprimanded dozens of factories in eastern Zhejiang province after finding that 40 percent of the children’s clothing they produced did not meet quality standards.

The district where the factories are located, in Huzhou city, makes one fourth of the country’s children’s garments, Xinhua said. It cited the local quality supervision administration as saying their “quality index” was at its lowest since 2003.

The garments had problems with their dyes, fiber content and stitching, Xinhua said, adding that none of the companies involved exported their products.

The inspection was part of a nationwide campaign to improve product quality and food safety in the wake of the recent scandals, it said.