Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Beijing’s food seizure seen as retaliation

Beijing’s food seizure seen as retaliation
By Geoff Dyer in Shanghai
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 26 2007 20:02 | Last updated: June 27 2007 04:28

China has impounded two shipments of food from the US on the grounds that the produce is unsafe and warned that procedures for monitoring American food imports should be tightened.

Government inspectors seized separate shipments of orange pulp and apricots from the US because they contained excessive bacteria and mould, China’s food safety inspectorate said on Tuesday on its website.

Coming on the back of a series of scandals in the US over the quality of imported goods from China, the announcement will be considered by many importers as a form of retaliation by the Chinese authorities.

The statement comes one day after regulators in the US announced a recall of up to 450,000 tyres manufactured by a Chinese company because of a potentially dangerous safety problem.

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said it had impounded the orange pulp in the eastern province of Shandong and the apricots were seized in Shenzhen.

The shipments contained “excessive bacteria, mould and sulphur dioxide”, the agency said, but gave no details about when they were impounded or how big the shipments were.

The agency’s statement said local departments had been advised to “strengthen quarantine and inspections on food imports from America”.

An executive at a European trading company based in Shanghai said: “We cannot say anything for sure without seeing details about the shipments, but it certainly looks like a way of deflecting some of the attention away from China and its own quality problems.”

The US government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Monday the recall of tyres sold by Foreign Tire Sales, a New Jersey distributor, which are used in vans, sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.

The tyres, made by a Chinese company called Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, lacked a gum strip that helps strengthen the tyre and prevent tread separation – the problem that caused a massive recall of Firestone tyres in the US in 2000. Officials at Hangzhou Zhongce could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The tyre recall follows a series of quality problems with Chinese goods in recent months in the US, including a recall of potentially poisonous pet food, the discovery of lead paint in children’s toys and reports of toxic chemicals in toothpaste.

Last month Chinese customs seized 118 tonnes of Evian mineral water which officials said contained higher levels of bacteria than allowed.

Danone is currently involved in a legal battle with the owner of its main joint venture partner in China over control of the venture’s brand name.


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