Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

US to help China with food safety

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Chinese workers prepare to destroy boxes of contaminated Mengniu milk
Chinese milk products were found to be contaminated

The Chinese government has allowed the US to open food safety offices in three cities to help ensure the safety of Chinese food products for export.

The US Food and Drug Administration says its staff will provide technical advice to Chinese firms, and conduct their own inspections.

They will work with national and local authorities, and with private groups to develop certification programmes.

China's reputation suffered recently after milk products were contaminated.

Concern over the safety of Chinese products has been growing since tainted pet food and other products were traced back to China last year.

The industrial chemical melamine was found to have been deliberately put into milk products.

FDA officials will be based in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai in an effort to improve the safety of Chinese food and medicines exported around the world.

The US and China signed an agreement last year to share information and to create product tracking systems to try to tighten up safety standards.

But the problem is that so much of the food produced here comes from small manufacturers or companies, some of which are operating with the most basic facilities and within tiny profit margins.

The Chinese government says it is introducing tough new regulations to try to improve safety but past experience suggests it is hard in practice to implement those new rules, particularly away from the bigger cities.

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