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China govt under fire over new food bacteria rule
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 25, 2011

China's state-run media and web users criticised the government Friday after it ruled that small amounts of a potentially lethal bacterium were permissible in frozen food.

The health ministry ruling followed a series of recalls of products, including dumplings made by Synear Food -- one of China's largest frozen food producers -- because they contained traces of staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

The bacterium, also known as golden staph, can cause a range of mild to severe infections and diseases, including life-threatening pneumonia and meningitis.

Under the existing rules, food products must be recalled if any of the bacteria are discovered. But new rules announced Thursday will allow a small amount of staphylococcus aureus in frozen rice or dough products.

A commentary in the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, urged authorities to "address public anxiety" after the revision, which follows a series of food safety scandals in China.

"Authorities cannot attempt to fudge public concerns over food safety," said the article, written by Jiang Yun.

"In order to rebuild the credibility of food safety standards, they should... consider whether the making of the standards is open and transparent."

Chinese Internet users went further, accusing authorities of deliberately lowering food safety standards to pander to big business.

"According to the new standard, ... toxin is allowed in foods as long as the amount is not to the lethal level," wrote one blogger under the name Tianxiaqimou.

China's food industry remains plagued by safety scandals, despite sporadic government crackdowns.

One of the biggest emerged in 2008 when huge amounts of the industrial chemical melamine were found to have been illegally added to dairy products to give the appearance of higher protein content.

In September last year, authorities including China's top court and the public security ministry called for tougher penalties, including the death sentence in serious food safety cases.

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China penalizes 113 in tainted pork scandal
Beijing (AFP) Nov 26, 2011 - China penalized 113 people, including 17 government employees, over a chemical tainted pork scandal, official state media reported on Saturday.

The prime suspect, Liu Xiang, received the death sentence with two years' reprieve on conviction of harming public safety, China Daily said.

Liu's clandestine workshop producing a carcinogenic chemical clenbuterol, which is added to pig feed to produce leaner pork, was seized in Xiangyang city, Henan province in March.

Clenbutoral is banned as livestock feed, as it can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches and heart palpitations in human beings.

Liu's collaborator, Xi Zhongjie, was sentenced to life.

The government employees, including animal health and food safety inspectors, were handed jail sentences ranging from 3 to 9 years.

The 36 pig farmers received lighter sentences, ranging from probation to jail terms under a year.

In March, China Central Television (CCTV) reported that clenbuterol was detected in pigs bought by a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor.

The investigation revealed that from 2007 to March 2011 the two associates sold over 2,700 kilograms of clenbuterol to pork farmers across eight provinces in China, the official state media Xinhua reported.

Food scandals occur regularly in China, with recent cases involving recycled cooking oil, contaminated eggs and carcinogenic mushrooms.

To calm public opinion, Chinese authorities last year requested that the death sentence be applied in the most serious food scandal cases.


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