China approves new food safety law

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BEIJING, Oct 31 (Reuters) The Chinese government today approved in principle a new food safety law aimed at raising standards at every level of production, a senior official said.

The quality of Chinese goods has come under international scrutiny following scandals involving products ranging from toothpaste and pet food to toys and fish.

Beijing insists the issue is limited to a few errant companies and hyped by foreign media as well as being driven by a protectionist agenda in some countries. But it has also promised to tighten checks and crack down on illegal behaviour.

China's State Council, or cabinet, has now approved the food safety law and it will be passed to the largely rubber stamp parliament for the final nod, product quality watchdog chief Li Changjiang told World Health Organisation head Margaret Chan.

''This law totally covers how to standardise our food products' production, processing, sale and supervision,'' Li later told reporters.

''I believe that the promulgation of this law will certainly effectively raise China's food safety situation and guarantee food safety and people's health,'' he added, without giving details of the law or providing a timetable.

Public fears about food safety grew in 2004, when at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui province, in eastern China, after they were fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value.

REUTERS SYU DS1138

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