EU urges China to act on food safety promises

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BEIJING, Sep 12 (Reuters) China has shown a will to overhaul food safety controls after an eruption of international worry about tainted goods, but it now has to deliver on promised reforms, the EU's health chief said today.

European Union Commissioner for Health, Markos Kyprianou, said he had come away from talks with Chinese officials encouraged that they were committed to stopping unacceptable chemical residues and other risks in fishery products, honey, peanuts and other farm exports.

But he said Beijing now had to make good on promised improvements to its quality controls or face more scrutiny, possible even bans on some products.

''I'm encouraged by the expression of political will in this respect. But of course as you realise in areas of this nature, what is important is the actual result,'' Kyprianou told reporters.

China has been seeking to salvage its image as an exporter as after a torrent of scares over toxic and unsafe products. Barely a day goes by without a new warning over a made-in-China product, be it toys, toothpaste, candies or seafood.

Beijing insists the problem is a limited one, that the huge majority of the country's exports are up to standard and that the Western media has exaggerated failings.

Kyprianou said there could be increased testing of food exports.

''But eventually if the situation is not improved then we may have to take stricter measures. We may even have to ban the import of specific products.'' China attracted about double the number of alerts over food imports into the EU as the next biggest target of such alerts, Kyprianou said.

Brussels would monitor China's safety efforts and bans remained a last resort, Kyprianou said.

The EU health chief said he also pressed Chinese health officials to ban tobacco sponsorship for Formula One motor racing. Shanghai hosts one of the races and allows cigarette makers to use it for promotions.

''The risks are being broadcast back to Europe and are being viewed by European citizens,'' the EU official said of the sponsorship.

Reuters SG DB1912

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