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Health chief warns China’s food producers against illegal additives

25 February 2009 730 views No Comment

BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — Chinese health chiefs pledged Tuesday to harshly punish those caught in the production, sale and use of illegal additives in food in a nationwide campaign, which has already led to the arrests of four people.

At a video conference briefing on the initial stage of the four-month campaign, Vice Health Minister Chen Xiaohong said, “Some lawless people are still using high technologies to develop food counterfeiting techniques to challenge the supervision capability of law enforcement departments.”

Underground markets for illegal additives operated in some regions, and unspoken secrets” in some food industries still existed, he said, referring to practices such as adding melamine to dairy products to falsify protein test results.

“The authorities will lay bare companies that fail to rectify their problems, and root out the production sources of illegal additives, and severely punish those who deliberately produce, sell, and use illegal additives in food,” he said.

Law enforcement personnel had investigated 1,274 cases involving the illegal use or misuse of additives after receiving public tip-offs and complaints, said Chen. Seven people had been transferred to the public security and judicial organs, and four of them have been arrested.

Chen gave no detailed information of the arrests.

The move is part of a nationwide investigation launched by the Health Ministry, the State Food and Drug Administration, and seven other government departments on Dec. 10 last year to find illegal additives in food.

More than 770,000 law enforcement personnel fanned out to check about 1.36 million food-processing firms nationwide in the first stage of the campaign.

The investigation will target dairy products, processed meat, rice, flour, oil, liqueurs, beverages, and food additives, which are all widely consumed products, in the next stage, Chen said.

The nationwide action was organized in the wake of the melamine-tainted baby formula scandal. Milk powder and other dairy products containing the industry chemical sickened more than 294,000 infants and killed at least six.

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