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Premier Vows to Enhance Food Supervision Following Milk Powder Scandal

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised on Saturday to toughen supervision to ensure food security after the latest milk powder scandal.

"Not only relevant companies were responsible for the scandal, but the government should also be held responsible for lax supervision," Wen said at a press conference at the end of the seventh Asia-Europe Meeting.

China would earnestly deal with the scandal and punish both those who were directly involved in the case and officials who were responsible, he said.

The Chinese government would earnestly draw lessons from the scandal and ensure "effective and forceful" supervision on the production, transportation and processing of food, he added.

In the tainted dairy products scandal, melamine, often used in the manufacture of plastics, was added to substandard or diluted milk to make protein levels appear higher. At least three infants died and more than 50,000 were sickened after prolonged drinking of the contaminated milk.

After the incident, the Chinese government quickly enacted regulations to intensify supervision and management of the dairy industry to ensure safety, he said.

China's top legislature began reviewing a draft law on food safety earlier this week, which sets stricter food quality standards and demands greater government responsibility, he added.

The draft, which was revised after the scandal, would ban all chemicals and materials other than authorized additives in food production.

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to food safety because it is not only in the interest of the Chinese but also people in the world," he said.

"In the future, our food safety criteria will not only meet the international standard but that of the importer of our products," he said.

Wen admitted it was "tough" for the country to overcome current difficulties to ensure safe and healthy food production.

He said, however, as a big country with a 1.3 billion population, China has the determination to march "an important step" forward in terms of food security.

"We will gain the trust of the Chinese and people in the world via our behaviors and quality of our products," he said. 

(Xinhua News Agency October 26, 2008)

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