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Trying to Renew Trust in 'Made in China' Label

Chinese officials move to strengthen food safety laws, but also accuse some foreign media of overstating the problems with exports. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

China has recently been faced with serious issues of product safety. Some cases have brought attention internationally to the increased use of imported ingredients to make food and medicine.

In Panama, medicine made with a poisonous chemical killed or sickened more than one hundred people. A Chinese company had identified the additive as glycerin, a safe sweetener and thickener. But it was really diethylene glycol, a low-cost substitute commonly used in automobile antifreeze.

Some countries have banned Chinese-made toothpaste containing diethylene glycol. China has now told companies to discontinue this use, even though it says the toothpaste is safe.

Another industrial chemical, melamine, was found in wheat flour used to make pet food in North America. Thousands of dogs and cats died or became sick.

The United States has restricted some imports of Chinese seafood because they contained banned substances. And questions have been raised about other products, including children's toys covered in lead paint.

The European Union is China's biggest trading partner. Meglena Kuneva, its commissioner for consumer protection, was in Beijing this week. Chinese officials promised her they would provide the European Union with detailed reports on enforcement efforts against unsafe goods.

China agreed in January of last year to do this every three months. She said China has not done so.

Li Changjiang is director of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. She said China will work to guarantee the quality of its products.

China recently closed three companies linked to the Panama deaths and the pet food scare. And it executed the former head of its food and drug administration. He was found guilty of corruption for approving unsafe drugs.

This week, China said a conference of the State Council approved a proposed special measure on the supervision of food safety. The Xinhua news agency said it calls for stronger controls over producers, greater responsibilities for government and more serious punishment for illegal activities.

But Chinese officials have accused some foreign media of overstating problems with goods made in China. They say food imports from the United States also fail inspection sometimes. Next week, American and Chinese food safety officials plan to hold five days of meetings in Beijing to discuss cooperation.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. I'm Mario Ritter.