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China vows to clean up toxins amid food scares

BEIJING - China will clamp down on foods tainted with illegal and excessive chemicals as it seeks to quell domestic and foreign alarm about toxins in meat, seafood and vegetables, the country's top agriculture official said.

China is battling a torrent of warnings and recalls abroad that have shaken international markets' confidence in the "made in China" label on products ranging from toothpaste and toys to food and tyres.

Minister of Agriculture Sun Zhengcai said consumers had no reason to fear eating most of the nation's farm produce.

"Judging from monitoring, the acceptability rate of China's agricultural products is higher than it's ever been," he said in an interview published by the official People's Daily on Monday.

The government has responded to the scandals with frequent news conferences and policy announcements -- including the farm minister's vows of stringent controls.

While defending his government's food safety record, Sun promised stiff action against farmers and producers who used banned chemicals to boost yields and profits.

"This crackdown campaign will be no mere formality," Sun said.

Among targeted practices will be use of chloramphenicol, malachite green and other potentially toxic banned chemicals in raising seafood.

The United States said in June it would not allow imports of Chinese farm-raised catfish, shrimp and other seafood unless suppliers proved shipments were free from harmful residues, including malachite green - a potential carcinogen illegally used to kill fungus and bacteria in fish tanks.

Sun also promised an offensive against banned additives in animal feed and pet food. Earlier this year, Chinese-made melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizers, surfaced in US pet food, killing animals and prompting wide recalls.


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