BEIJING -- China's regulatory standards chief pledged yester day to update and boost enforcement of food safety rules as the country faces intense international pressure for exporting unsafe products, from toothpaste to pet food ingredients.
Chinese-made toothpaste has been rejected by several countries, while Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed for dog and cat deaths in North America.
Other products turned away by US inspectors include toxic monkfish, frozen eel, and juice made with unsafe color additives.
"China will speed up revisions to national and industry standards on farm produce and processed food products," Liu Pingjun, chief of the National Standardization Management Commission, said in a statement on the website of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Liu said China had 1,965 national food safety standards at the end of 2006, of which 634 were mandatory, but that "the standards were on average 12 years old."
He said the goal was to ensure that domestic standards complied with international ones and that none of them were more than 4 1/2 years old. Liu did not say what was wrong with the current standards or how they differed from international ones.
The backlash against tainted Chinese exports has put the government on the offensive. It recently highlighted at least four American products as unsafe or not up to Chinese safety standards. At the same time, safety officials have urged better surveillance at all levels and promised to set up a food recall system, the country's first, by year's end.
Reports of food poisonings or tainted food are almost daily occurrences in China. In the latest scare, a company was ordered to stop production after it was found to be repackaging the filling from two-year-old rice dumplings.