BEIJING (Reuters) - China expressed regret on Thursday at reports the U.S. Olympic team would bring its own meat for the Beijing Games over concerns of drugs tainted food, and said it could guarantee safe supplies.
The New York Times has reported that the U.S. Olympic Committee has arranged with sponsors to ship 25,000 pounds of lean protein to Beijing for the Games, in response to concerns about the potential impact of veterinary drugs and insecticides on athletes.
“I personally feel rather regretful,” Kang Yi, head of the Catering Division at the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, told a news conference.
Chinese organizers have made efforts to ensure that athletes could dine together, but “if the U.S. delegation is not at these gatherings, I think that’s a pity,” Kang said.
Beijing had received no formal notification from the U.S. team regarding its plans, she added.
China has been at pains to reassure on food safety ahead of the Games, after a series of health scares drew attention to lax oversight and a willingness among manufacturers to flout standards with a view to maximizing profits.
Meat supplies in particular have come under scrutiny over fears that antibiotics and growth stimulants commonly used by breeders to boost yields could cause positive doping tests.
Officials said there was no evidence that that was the case.
“At present, globally, there have been no scientific reports that show drug tests will yield positive results after athletes or people eat certain types of meat,” said Lu Yong, director of the Beijing Municipal Food Safety Monitoring Centre.
“China has very strict rules. Forbidden drugs cannot be used in breeding, so we can guarantee safety,” he said.
China bans drugs like clenbuterol, a steroid that boosts animal muscle mass, in feed, though experts say it is still commonly used by Chinese producers.
But officials say they have developed an extensive monitoring and supervision system over the entire supply chain feeding Beijing, from breeders to slaughterhouses to distribution trucks, to ensure that food for the Games is up to par.
“With monitoring, the food safety system has become much more targeted and proactive,” said Tang Yunhua, spokeswoman for the Beijing Municipal Office for Food Safety.
“Only when the food is in line with our strict standards can it enter the market.”
Any food that the U.S. or other teams may wish to bring to China for their athletes would have to meet import standards.
“As for whether you can bring your own food to China, we also have strict rules,” Tang said. “You have to comply with relevant rules and regulations.”
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)