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Chinese food imports under safety attack

Date Posted: 2007-06-08

Food products made in China are being scrutinized for using banned or dangerous products, and some consumer advocates are worried.

Okinawa officials report many products being imported to Okinawa contain dangerous or poisonous raw materials. Those products, which passed import regulations, now are on local supermarket shelves. The worrisome products, officials acknowledge, include pet foods and medicines.

Chinese imports, according to reports dating back to 2001, are documented to contain fake milk for babies that used sweet potato starch, fake eggs made from sweet potato or tree oil, shiny rice coated with plastic, soy sauce with human hairs inside, bread fried with old waste oil, and minced meat mixed with pig waste. Okinawa investigators say there are more examples surfacing, but say they’re working with management to investigate the food allegations. A concern of watchdog groups is that there’s collusion going on between the Chinese manufacturers and with inspectors, noting that China’s low wage scales make inspectors perfect targets for bribes.

Groups are calling on the government to pressure the Chinese government to educate workers and beef up inspections and quarantine procedures. They say exporters are so eager to make money, they’re willing to export potentially dangerous goods just to turn a profit.

Japanese stores, including Okinawa, carry many Chinese products. Officials say not all are dangerous, but admit some are.

Chinese officials say they’re watching, and taking action. Only last month a Chinese government food and medicines administration officer was sentenced to death by a court for accepting bribes to pass uncertified medicines into the export pipeline.

The process is seemingly so common, one diplomat says “we don’t give milk made in China to our own baby. We buy overseas made milk”. Other Chinese admit they don’t eat their own locally manufactured food products. “We have enough money to buy safe foods from overseas production locations,” one said. “We do have our own safe sources.”

Oversight agencies say that may be the case, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The rich Chinese, including government officers and diplomats, can obtain foreign made goods, but ordinary Chinese can’t. Many of those same Chinese government officials, charges on watchdog group, are the same people accepting bribes and permitting dangerous foods to be exported.

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