Image: Seafood market in China
Diego Azubel  /  EPA
China will begin a system of food safety checks during the Olympic trials to help ensure the safety of fare served during the games and to show the world it's serious about cracking down on unsafe practices.
updated 7/12/2007 1:35:16 PM ET 2007-07-12T17:35:16

China will begin a daily food safety reporting system next month during test events for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a bid to reassure the world that it is serious about cracking down on unsafe practices.

The system will be put in place Aug. 8 in Beijing, where a series of 11 trials will be held for Olympic organizers to assess their transportation systems, technology and logistics.

Monitoring will start from the origin of production and continue through processing, packaging, transportation and distribution, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said Thursday.

“There will be continuous supervision,” the quality watchdog said on its Web site.

The reports, which would include details of any food safety accidents, will be overseen by the Beijing Municipal Food Safety Office. The quality administration did not give details, and a man who answered the telephone at the food safety office refused to give any information or his name.

Confidence in the safety of Chinese exports has severely waned internationally, as the list of products found tainted with dangerous levels of toxins and chemicals grows longer by the day.

Significant steps
China has taken significant steps in recent days to clean up its dubious product safety record, including executing the former head of its drug regulation agency for taking bribes and banning the use of a chemical found in antifreeze in the production of toothpaste.

In a report aired Wednesday night, China Central Television showed how a bun maker in a district in Beijing used cardboard picked off the street as filling for his product.

The undercover investigation report showed how squares of cardboard were first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda — a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap — then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning were stirred in and minutes later, steaming buns were shown on screen.

This week, officials have vowed that the Beijing Games — a source of tremendous national pride — will be part of the crackdown on unsafe food.

Sun Wenxu, an official with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters that athletes, coaches, officials and others can be assured of safe meals.

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Organizers are also taking measures to ensure athletes’ food is free of substances that could trigger a positive result in tests for banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Toxic chemical banned
Late Wednesday, China banned toothpaste manufacturers from using diethylene glycol, or DEG — which can cause kidney failure, paralysis and death, but has been used as a low-cost substitute for harmless glycerin, a sweetener in many drugs.

Chinese-made toothpaste containing DEG has been yanked from sale in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Although there have been no reports of health problems stemming from the toothpaste, dozens of people in Panama died last year after taking medicine contaminated with DEG imported from China and passed off as glycerin.

China had never had guidelines banning DEG as a toothpaste ingredient. However, a statement on the quality administration’s Web site said the vast majority of Chinese toothpaste manufacturers had already stopped using it in order to reassure consumers, and “to avoid unnecessary losses incurred by exporting manufacturers.”

But it said the ban also covers imported products, and reiterated China’s official stance that DEG is safe in small amounts, based on Chinese health experts’ tests in 2000.

“Currently there’s no evidence to show that the use of DEG in toothpaste directly causes cases of poisoning in people,” it said.

Stricter rules
The State Food and Drug Administration or SFDA announced stricter rules for approving new medicines Wednesday, a day after the agency’s former head, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed for taking bribes and gifts in exchange for letting substandard and fake products onto the domestic market. One, an antibiotic, has been blamed for at least 10 deaths.

Starting Oct. 1, the drug registration and approval process will be made transparent to curb power abuse and corruption, the state-run China Daily newspaper on Thursday quoted Wu Zhen, the agency’s deputy chief, as saying.

A special panel will approve new drugs instead of a single person or department, and local watchdogs will be authorized to conduct preliminary approval procedures — unlike before, when power was centralized, Wu said.

“Transparency is the enemy of corruption,” he was quoted as saying.

Companies which provide false information or samples will not be allowed to apply for drug approval for up to three years, and the SFDA will make surprise spot checks on drug producers, he said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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