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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 08:40 GMT
Mice star as Olympic food tasters
Beijing 2008
China is determined the Olympic Games will pass off smoothly
White mice are to take part in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing - their task to protect international athletes from food poisoning.

The mice will be fed milk, alcohol, salad, rice, oil and seasonings, the city's health inspectors said.

Mice show adverse reactions within 17 hours, while laboratory tests take much longer, they said.

Poor hygiene in food handling and low standards in distribution have made food poisoning rife in China.

The move is part of the huge effort the Chinese are making to ensure the showpiece event passes off smoothly.

24-hour guard

All the food and ingredients to be prepared in Olympic kitchens will fed to the mice a day before they are served to athletes, state news agency Xinhua quoted Zhao Xinsheng of the Beijing Municipal Health Inspection Bureau as saying.

Infected food can then be traced and destroyed in time.

More than 10,000 competitors will be staying at the athletes' village during the Games.

The kitchens will also have 24-hour guards, storage will be constantly monitored and transportation will have global positioning systems.

Zhen Xiaozhen, of the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, said the food served would be Western, complemented by Chinese dishes.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says nothing is being allowed to stand in the way of the perfect Olympics.

Stray cats and dogs will vanish from the streets, he says, and anti-aircraft guns, small planes and rockets will be used to disperse rain clouds, ensuring there will be blue skies over Beijing for the duration.

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