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China detains reporter over food scare story

Beijing police have detained a television reporter for fabricating an investigative story about steamed buns stuffed with cardboard at a time when China’s food safety is under intense international scrutiny.
/ Source: Reuters

Beijing police have detained a television reporter for fabricating an investigative story about steamed buns stuffed with cardboard at a time when China’s food safety is under intense international scrutiny.

A report directed by Beijing TV and played on state-run national broadcaster China Central Television last Thursday said an unlicensed snack vendor in eastern Beijing was selling steamed dumplings stuffed with cardboard soaked in caustic soda and seasoned with pork flavoring.

Beijing authorities said investigations had found that an employee surnamed Zi had fabricated the report to garner “higher audience ratings,” the China Daily said on Thursday.

“Zi had provided all the cardboard and asked the vendor to soak it. It’s all cheating,” the paper quoted a government notice as saying.

A citywide inspection of steamed bun vendors in the wake of the report had found no such cases, the paper said.

Beijing TV had apologized for failing to check the report’s authenticity and said it would make efforts to improve staff ethics, the paper added.

China’s quality watchdog chief, Li Changjiang, warned media in an interview on state television that they must be responsible in reporting food safety issues and tell the truth, though he did not deny there were some problems.

“The media and those who work in the news should focus on professional morals and also honesty,” he said.

The government has accused foreign media of hyping the story and of inaccurate reporting, saying problems were limited to a few, rogue companies and were not systemic.

“The Chinese government welcomes domestic and overseas media to supervise food quality on the basis of fairness and accuracy,” the watchdog quoted Li Yuanping, head of the food import and export bureau, as saying on its Web site.

China is reeling from a series of tainted food and drug scandals that have sparked criticism at home and abroad.

‘Illegal products are being sold’
A Shanghai company which makes the well-known “White Rabbit” candy on Wednesday hit back at the Philippines for banning the sweets’ sale and distribution because of harmful substances.

Counterfeiters were to blame, the company insisted.

Separately, Deputy Agriculture Minister Yin Chengjie was quoted as telling a meeting that though less chemical residues from drugs were being found in animal products, the veterinary sector had a problem with poor quality and overuse of drugs.

“The industry still has some outstanding issues,” he said, according to the ministry’s Web site. “In some areas illegal products are being sold.”

The deaths of patients in Panama from mislabeled drug ingredients from China, deadly toxins in pet food exported to the United States and food laced with hazardous antibiotics and chemicals have raised fears about the safety of China’s surging exports.