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Links 1 through 10 of 16 by David Bandurski tagged food

A report in the China Business Herald details the appalling conditions of Qinhai Gelatin, a company at the center of the ongoing scandal over the use of recycled leather and bones with high levels of chromium in the manufacture of gelatin used for medicinal capsules and also sold as a food additive. Local sources tell the newspaper that bones from restaurant garbage were also a key raw material, and the stench of the factory drove many people in the area in recent years to sell their homes and relocate.

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China's Ministry of Health responded in state media today to public concerns that new quality standards for the milk industry in China had been influenced by major milk producers in the country, as some experts have publicly alleged in recent days. The MOH said the new standards had been drafted by 70 experts, including 24 from various universities and government quality control agencies, and 9 representatives from milk companies (Abbot, Mead-Johnson, Danone, Sanyuan, Mengniu, Yili and Guangming). The other 37 "experts" were not specified.

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Guangzhou Daily reports today that prices for staple foods such as vegetables, fish and rice have risen further in recent days as the result of a historic drought along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, one of the country's key food producing regions. Severe drought has affected five provinces along the Yangtze River, including Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu. Chinese news reports have called it the worst drought "since the founding of the nation" in 1949. Rising food prices have become an urgent social and political issue in China in recent months, drawing widespread attention during the country's annual meetings of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress back in March.  

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In a news video posted today, Caixin Online explores the root causes of China's ongoing food safety issues in an interview with Qiu Baochang (邱宝昌), a lawyer with Beijing's Huijia Law Firm and a legal representative for the China Consumers Association. In the refreshingly frank discussion, Qiu runs through a host of problems, including a localized and fragmented inspection system involving myriad agencies. At one point, Qiu says: "In fact, what our laws and regulations stipulate is a [system that is to be] seamlessly jointed together, and at whatever stage a problem occurs should be regulated and supervised by the department at that level. This is your legal obligation, and you should carry out your duty faithfully. But in fact, there might be issues of manpower . . . And there might be lax supervision, or even inspectors working with illegal producers, etcetera. But these problems cannot be used as excuses [for government offices] to avoid responsibility."

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The CCP's official People's Daily reports today that the State Council has issued a notice on tougher oversight for food additive use. The notice outlines five measures in the abstract for cracking down on the illegal use of harmful food additives, and pledges to "protect the health and safety of the people." China's government has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks to deal effectively with food safety concerns, as media have uncovered a series of abuses, and as little progress seems to have been made in the more than two years since the 2008 poisoned milk scandal. Pledges in the State Council notice to "strengthen" oversight of food products and to create a "comprehensive web of checks" met with skepticism from Chinese readers. "China has mechanisms but nothing real. If [food safety] inspectors can inspect bread or bean sprouts whenever and wherever they please, in the market or on the street, how is it that all these food safety issues have come out in the media?"

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Topping the news at QQ.com and other major portals today are remarks made by Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) at an April 14 meeting with State Council advisers, in which he attributed a recent spate of food safety scandals in China to a moral slide in Chinese society. Wen said: "To give some examples, in recent years we've continued to have such incidents as 'poisoned milk powder', harmful additives in pork products, the reuse of waste oil, and [reprocessed] and dyed [expired] dumplings. These awful food safety incidents are sufficient to show that the deficit in integrity and slide in morals [in our society] has already reached a serious state." While headlines in Chinese media emphasized the moral dimension of this issue, however, Wen did address the need to ensure proper rule of law, particularly "an impartial and independent judiciary," and introduce political reforms.

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Following an April 11 report on China Central Television revealing that numerous shops in Shanghai were selling dumplings past their expiration date and dying them bright colors, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng (韩正) said the government would deal urgently with the issue. Han said Shanghai would "immediately set-up a joint investigation to get to the bottom of the case." 

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The Beijing News reports today that radiation detection procedures are now in place for food and water supplies in Beijing and 13 other major cities in China, as fears spread in the country of possible radiation fallout from the nuclear power station crisis in Japan. 

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In more bad press for Wal-Mart China, which was recently accused along with French retailer Carrefour of illegal pricing practices in China, the Chongqing Evening News, a commercial spin-off of the city's official Chongqing Daily, alleges in a report today that expired chicken was being reprocessed and re-sold in one local Wal-Mart store. 

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China's Ministry of Health announced with a number of other relevant government departments yesterday that the addition of benzoyl peroxide in flour products would be prohibited beginning May 1, The Beijing News reports. Benzoyl peroxide has frequently been added as a whitening agent in flour products. 

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