Dirty chopsticks picked up in new China scare

BEIJING Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:31am BST

A construction worker eats noodles with disposable chopsticks at a roadside food stall in Beijing, August 22, 2007. A Beijing factory recycled used chopsticks and sold up to 100,000 pairs a day without any form of disinfection, a newspaper said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of food and product safety scares. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A construction worker eats noodles with disposable chopsticks at a roadside food stall in Beijing, August 22, 2007. A Beijing factory recycled used chopsticks and sold up to 100,000 pairs a day without any form of disinfection, a newspaper said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of food and product safety scares.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Beijing factory recycled used chopsticks and sold up to 100,000 pairs a day without any form of disinfection, a newspaper said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of Chinese food and product safety scares.

Counterfeit, shoddy and dangerous products are widespread in China, whose exports have been rocked in recent months by a spate of safety scandals, ranging from pet food to medicine, tyres, toothpaste and toys.

Officials raided the factory and seized about half a million pairs of recycled disposable bamboo chopsticks and a packaging machine, the Beijing News said.

The owner, identified only by his surname Wu, said he had sold the recycled chopsticks for 0.04 yuan a pair and made an average of about 1,000 yuan (66 pounds) a day.

Wu, who had no licence to sell the goods, said he had sold 100,000 pairs a day when business was good.

China, on track to overtake the United States this year as the world's second-largest exporter, lacks the manpower to enforce food and drug safety regulations at home or for export. Imports are generally carefully scrutinised.

A lack of business ethics and a spiritual vacuum after China embraced economic reforms in the late 1970s have been blamed for unscrupulous business practices and corruption.

In Guangzhou, capital of booming Guangdong province in south China, Mayor Zhang Guangning vowed to bankrupt serious violators of food and product safety.

The Hong Kong owner of a Guangdong manufacturer at the centre of a recall of millions of Chinese-made toys by U.S. giant Mattel had committed suicide, according to Hong Kong media.

China has said the world should have faith in the "made-in-China" label and that a spate of product recalls has been unfair, biased and politically motivated.

"No country can guarantee their food to be 100 percent safe, but if one in 100 or even in 1,000 of our products has quality problems, we will deal with it seriously," Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said on Tuesday when meeting former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"China strongly opposes (some countries) extending individual economic and trade problems, and thus conducting trade protection," Bo said in a report on the ministry's Web site (www.mofcom.gov.cn).

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures, China has accused the United States of exporting substandard soybean shipments to China and requested "effective measures" be taken.

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