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China illegal additives still blight food: official

25 February 2009 553 views No Comment

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese dairy products, flour, meat and other foods remain dangerously tainted with illegal additives despite a crackdown, the country’s health ministry said Tuesday.

Vice Minister of Health, Chen Xiaohong, told a video conference for officials some food and liquor makers continued to use banned additives, and high-tech lawbreakers were “challenging the oversight and administration capacities of law enforcement agencies,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

“Some food businesses still lack a grasp of the harmfulness and severity of illegal additives,” Chen said. “Their commitment to correcting this is not high.”

China’s problems with tainted foods and medicines came under international spotlight from 2007 through a string of scares over toxins in exports.

Public worries came to a head last year, when the Sanlu Group and other dairy companies were found to be using raw milk adulterated with the industrial chemical, melamine.

At last 6 children in China died from drinking melamine-tainted infant formula, and nearly 300,000 fell ill.

The government has investigated and dealt with 1,274 cases of illegal and reckless use of food additives since late 2008, Xinhua also reported.

Seven people suspected of related crimes have been handed to police, and four of them have been formally arrested, the report said.

Chen, the health official, said the crackdown so far was not enough and some firms had not mended their ways.

“The illegal use of additives over a long time in some sectors has still not been effectively halted,” he said.

Earlier this year, China jailed the former chairwoman of the Sanlu Group for life over the melamine-tainted milk scandal. She is appealing against her sentence.

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