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AGRICULTURE REPORT - United States Urges Chinese To Accept New Rules for Food Safety

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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The United States has urged China to accept new safety rules for its food and drug exports. American officials said the rules would include a new list of Chinese exporters.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt made the statements. They spoke the day after high-level trade talks between the two nations.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, left, with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Washington, 22 May 2007
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, left, with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Washington, 22 May 2007

The Americans met last week in Washington with a Chinese delegation led by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi.

The United States Food and Drug Administration said inspectors rejected more than one hundred shipments of food imports from China during April alone. The inspectors rejected them for being unclean or containing harmful substances.

China has a lot to lose if people fear its food and drugs. The nation earns an estimated thirty billion dollars yearly in food and drug exports. Companies in the United States would also suffer. For example, American companies depend on China for large amounts of apple juice.

Last week, United States health inspectors began examining toothpaste from China. The government acted after tubes of the teeth-cleaning substance were sent to Panama and the Dominican Republic. The toothpaste was found to contain diethylene glycol, a deadly chemical. But no deaths linked to the toothpaste have been reported.

In recent months, wheat flour produced in China for use in pet food sickened or killed many dogs and cats in the United States and Canada.

Critics of Chinese imports suspect that Chinese companies placed the industrial chemical melamine in the wheat flour to increase the amount of protein.

Worries increased when chicken, fish and pork in the United States were also found to contain melamine. The animals got the melamine in their feed. The chemical is used to make plastics and fertilizers. It is not meant for human food.

There also have been incidents of bad effects from foods made and used inside China. For example, a number of babies died because of falsely marked baby milk. Earlier this month, China announced new measures to make food companies improve conditions.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jeri Watson. You can read scripts and download audio from our Web site, www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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