Chinese Envoy Warns of Toothpaste Panic; Fears of Taint Dismissed as 'Politics'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 13, 2007 | Go to article overview

Chinese Envoy Warns of Toothpaste Panic; Fears of Taint Dismissed as 'Politics'


Byline: Steve Hirsch, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

China's second-ranking diplomat in Washington yesterday rejected criticism of his country over tainted toothpaste and other questionable food and drug exports but said his government is taking a series of corrective measures.

Some people are trying to politicize the issue, Chinese Embassy Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Zheng Zeguang told The Washington Times.

The issue has been building in recent weeks as the U.S. and other countries have taken action after the discovery of tainted or substandard food and drug imports from China. At least 16 pet deaths have been caused by pet food contaminated with the chemical melamine. And the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month warned consumers not to use toothpaste from China after finding tubes tainted with a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and brake fluid.

Other developments over problems with Chinese exports include:

* Bans on Chinese catfish by Alabama and Mississippi because of high levels of antibiotics.

* A California firm's recall of Chinese "monkfish" that may have been puffer fish containing the toxin tetrodotoxin.

* Actions by foreign countries, including Singapore, which recently banned three types of Chinese toothpaste.

Mr. Zheng said "certain isolated cases" should not be "blown out of proportion" to mislead the American public into thinking that all food and drugs from China are unsafe, which he said is not the case.

His comments come after several House Energy and Commerce Committee members said the Bush administration should consider banning food imports from China if the Food and Drug Administration cannot ensure their safety.

China, he said, attaches great importance to the safety of its pharmaceutical and food products and has a strict regime in place to monitor exports.

The country has a series of laws and regulations aimed at ensuring food safety, and Beijing earlier this month released food and drug safety goals for the next five years, including stronger surveillance and export controls. It also plans new rules this year requiring food companies to recall products that pose a health risk.

In the pet food case, Mr. Zheng said, that the melamine incident was caused by two small enterprises and that legal action has been started against them. …

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