July 18, 2007 / 10:27 AM / 12 years ago

China, U.S. to discuss detained seafood exports

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and the United States will hold five days of talks in Beijing this month over Chinese seafood exports detained for harmful residues, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

Vendors selling shrimps and prawns wait for customers at a seafood market in Beijing June 29, 2007. China and the United States will hold five days of talks in Beijing this month over Chinese seafood exports detained for harmful residues, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

Chinese products ranging from toys and tires to medicines and toothpastes have been reeling from a global confidence crisis in past months after countries including the U.S. banned or recalled them for being tainted or substandard.

The U.S. Food and Drug Agency said on June 28 that their inspectors continued to find certain banned veterinary drugs and food additives in Chinese farm-raised catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel.

It said such Chinese exports would not be allowed to enter the country until suppliers could prove they are free from the substances, which posed no immediate public health threat because of their low levels but could be a problem in the long run.

FDA officials would talk with their Chinese counterparts for five days from July 31 to settle the dispute, Xinhua quoted Li Yuanping, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), as saying.

They would also discuss the “setting up of a collaboration mechanism on food safety,” Li said.

China has protested to the United States saying that an indiscriminate ban against all exports of such seafood products was unacceptable and has hinted protectionism of some local U.S. seafood farmers might be behind the ban.

The New York Times reported in May that cold medicines responsible for the deaths of about 100 people in Panama last year contained a Chinese-made toxic chemical mislabeled as an innocuous drug ingredient.

A string of domestic food and drug safety and other products quality scandals, in which dozens died, has also sparked seething public anger within China, prompting authorities to promise stricter oversight and tackle widespread regulatory loopholes.

But Chinese officials have complained about what they said was unfair international media coverage that highlighted isolated failings as the whole picture of China’s surging exports and manufacturing industry propped up by cheap labor.

China has hit back in recent weeks by sending a reminder that product quality anxieties could also be directed at U.S goods, suspending contaminated pork and poultry products imported from seven U.S. companies.

The meat was contaminated with salmonella, additives and veterinary drugs, according to the AQSIQ.

“China was not counteracting overseas complaints by picking holes in imports into the country,” Li, the AQSIQ official, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

On Tuesday, Beijing banned the import and sale of a Singaporean-made pain killer after it was found to be “fake,” state media said.

The World Health Organisation officials said in Geneva on Tuesday that China should not be singled out for particular concern over food safety, a big problem that rich and poor countries alike must tackle through better regulation.

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