The U.S. asked China to require exporters to register with the
government, amid other measures meant to provide greater assurance
of the safety of their products. The requests came amid ongoing
problems with Chinese exports, including chemically spiked pet food
ingredients and, as of Thursday, potentially poisonous toothpaste
and toxic fish.
"The Chinese understand very well that any nation
that does not create an atmosphere of trust with consumers and
customers, they will be disadvantaged quickly on the world market,"
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told reporters.
A Chinese Embassy spokeswoman declined to comment other than to
refer a reporter to previous statements made by government
officials. Earlier this week, Vice Premier Wu Yi, in Washington for
high-level economic talks, warned against politicizing economic and
The latest problems with Chinese products began in March, when
imported pet food ingredients were found to be spiked with the
industrial chemical melamine and related compounds. The
contamination was blamed in the deaths of dogs and cats in North
America and prompted a cascade of recalls, with the latest announced
The problems don't stop at pet food. For April, China was No. 1
in countries whose imports were stopped at the border by the Food
and Drug Administration. The list includes filthy mushrooms,
drug-laced frozen eel and juice made with unsafe color additives.
"Obviously, there is a problem in China. It keeps getting bigger
and we keep seeing more problems in different realms," said Chris
Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America.
On Thursday, even more potential problems were disclosed: The FDA
said it was stopping all imports of Chinese toothpaste to test for a
deadly chemical reportedly found in tubes sold elsewhere in the
world. The testing will look for diethylene glycol, a chemical
commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid, spokesman Doug
Arbesfeld said. The imports will be released only if they test
negative for the chemical. The announcement came following reports
that tainted Chinese toothpaste was sold in Australia, the Dominican
Republic and Panama.
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The FDA also announced an importer was recalling 282 22-pound
boxes labeled as Chinese monkfish that it distributed to three
states. Two Chicago-area people became ill after eating the fish,
which FDA testing later revealed contained life-threatening levels
of tetrodotoxin, a sometimes deadly toxin. Importer Hong Chang
Corp., of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., believes the fish may actually
be pufferfish, which can contain tetrodotoxin.
"There is a harsh reality here: When it comes to food, 'Made in
China' is now a warning label in the United States," said Sen. Dick
Durbin, D-Ill., who earlier this month exacted a promise from FDA
commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and Chinese Ambassador Zhou
Wenzhong that they would work toward a mutual agreement to improve
inspections and the overall safety of food products and drugs traded
between the two nations.
When asked Thursday if consumers could trust the safety of food
imported from China, von Eschenbach told The AP: "This is one area
where we have an ongoing opportunity for continuous improvement, and
that's what we are going to pursue."
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chairwoman of the House
Appropriations' agriculture subcommittee, pledged to hold a hearing
to examine Chinese imports.
"This is becoming a day-by-day event. We got monkfish --
poisonous pufferfish -- as just yet another example. And they're
investigating toxic toothpaste imported from China. This is truly
out of control," said DeLauro, who criticized the administration's
food and drug safety requests to the Chinese as nonbinding.
from file received from AP
Digital; article by Andrew Bridges, Associated Press writer]