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Premier: Food Safety a Top Priority

"Food safety and product quality concerns people's health, a producer's credibility and a country's image. Full attention must be paid on the issue," Wen told a State Council meeting.

He called for strengthened supervision on food and product quality throughout the whole production process and a strict tracking and recalling system of substandard goods.

Wen called on relevant departments to publicize food and product quality information to ensure the public is kept well informed.

The meeting agreed to set up a leading group on food safety made up of State Council members.

In a related development, the Ministry of Agriculture announced yesterday to launch a nationwide inspection on forbidden chemicals and drugs used on farms.

"It will mainly target the fishery and husbandry sectors to crack down on the illegal use of forbidden pesticides, animal drugs and chemicals," Zhang Yuxiang, the ministry spokeswoman, told a news briefing.

The ministry will also adopt other measures to ensure food safety through establishing pollution-free production bases, checking chemical application on farms, and strengthening certification of quality agriculture products, Zhang said.

China has been confronted with food safety problems since last year, when mandarin fish from Guangdong Province and turbot from Shandong were found to contain malachite.

Zhang said the country had established a nationwide food product tracking system from the farmland to the dining table.

The country is also trying to set up a market entry scheme for food products in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian, before it expands to other cities in the future, Zhang said.

According to the latest report by the Japanese food watchdog, 99.42 percent of food imported from China was quality, an approval rate higher than those from the United State and European Union.

"Japan adopted the strictest fishery inspection rule last year, and the report shows that Chinese fishery products have passed the tests," Chen Yide, vice-director of the fishery bureau of the ministry, said.

(China Daily July 26, 2007)

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