December 5, 2007 / 2:59 PM / 12 years ago

China shutters shoddy food factories

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has banned nearly 8,900 unlicensed meat suppliers and demolished more than 2,800 rural food factories as part of a campaign to clamp down on shoddy food, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

A series of scandals over the safety of food and other products ranging from toys to toothpaste has put pressure on Beijing to better regulate its food and other manufacturing industries.

A spike in meat and poultry prices, which grew by close to 40 percent from a year earlier in October, has given further incentive to unscrupulous suppliers to sell diseased meat or otherwise cheat consumers.

During a crackdown that started in January, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce closed a total of around 50,000 rural food producers for operating without a license or producing fake or substandard products, Xinhua said.

“The campaign has helped impress upon local food producers the need for certain qualifications and production standards, improved the market order in the countryside and protected the rights and interests of rural consumers,” it quoted Liu Fan, deputy head of the administration, as saying.

Problems with food safety are particularly pronounced in the countryside, where lax oversight of the many small factories has contributed to a string of food poisoning incidents.

Most recently, four children in the poor southern province of Yunnan died after eating a dried-noodle snack, a Beijing newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Public fears about food safety grew in 2004, when at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui province, in eastern China, after they were fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value.

Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Alex Richardson

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