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U.N. asks China to fix food problems

BEIJING — China can boost public trust that has been badly shaken by a spate of food safety scandals, including tainted formula that gave thousands of babies painful kidney stones, by enacting stricter laws and replacing its patchwork surveillance system, the United Nations said Wednesday.

In a 30-page paper released a day before the Chinese government is to review its draft law on food safety, the United Nations also recommended other changes, including more funding and training for food inspectors.

The paper follows a scandal over tainted milk powder. In September, authorities announced they had found the industrial chemical melamine, which is used to make plastics and fertilizer, in infant formula. The substance was reportedly added to boost protein levels.

The deaths of four babies have been linked to the contamination, and some 54,000 children have been sickened.

"The national system needs urgent review and revision," U.N. resident coordinator in China Khalid Malik said at a news conference in Beijing, where the paper was made public.

Most critically, China needs a unified regulatory agency, the report said. The task is now divided among a half-dozen government agencies, creating confusion and uneven enforcement.

China has about 450,000 registered enterprises engaged in food production and processing, but most — about 350,000 — employ 10 people or fewer. These small enterprises "present many of the greatest food safety challenges" in China, the United Nations said.

China warns EU about rights prize

China has warned the European Union that its relations with the 27-nation bloc will be seriously damaged if jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia wins the EU's top human rights prize today. Hu is one of three nominees for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize. The winner will be chosen by EU lawmakers. Joining Hu on the short list are Belarus opposition leader Alexander Kozulin and Abbe Apollinaire Malu-Malu, who guided Congo through its first elections in 50 years in 2006 as chief of the African nation's electoral commission.

Associated Press

U.N. asks China to fix food problems 10/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:43pm]
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