June 27, 2007 / 1:14 PM / 13 years ago

China seizes U.S. food, cracks down on safety at home

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has seized two fruit shipments from the United States and warned it would apply greater scrutiny to U.S. cargoes, even as it tightens the screws on manufacturers of unsafe food at home.

The country’s quarantine bureau said in a statement on its Web site (www.aqsiq.gov.cn) that quality inspectors had detained U.S. shipments of orange pulp, produced by Modern Skill Co. Ltd, and of preserved apricot from Mariani Packing because they contained high levels of bacteria, mildew and sulfur dioxide.

“When dealing with food from America, local quarantine bureaus should tighten their procedures,” said the statement seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

“The bureau reminds importers that the food safety standards should be specified in contracts to reduce transaction risk.”

China’s food safety record has drawn international attention since mislabeled chemical exports were mixed into cough syrup in Panama and pet food in the United States.

In apparent response, China has also announced the seizure of substandard food shipments at its ports.

Product safety disputes have spread beyond food.

A New Jersey importer this week asked for U.S. government help in recalling about 450,000 Chinese-made truck tires. The Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. has disputed the assertion that its products were defective.

Meanwhile, 180 domestic food manufacturers were shut down over the past six months for making substandard food or using inedible materials for food production, the Xinhua news agency cited Han Yi, a senior official from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, as saying.

Chinese legislators identified food safety as one of their top concerns during an annual meeting in March, after a spate of incidents, some fatal, involving fake and dangerous products. The quality bureau cracked 23,000 cases of fake and low-quality food from December 2006 to May 2007, Han said, involving 200 million yuan ($26.26 million).

In 2006, China’s industrial and commercial authorities ferreted out 68,000 fake food cases and withdrew 15,500 tons of substandard food from the market, Xinhua said, citing the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Only 48 cases were handed over to the judiciary for prosecution.

$1 = 7.615 Yuan

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