China to raise toothpaste safety standards
China is crafting new safety rules for oral care products, state media reported Wednesday, apparently propelled by international alarm over toothpaste producers' use of a potentially toxic chemical found in antifreeze.
Numerous countries have stopped imports of Chinese-made toothpaste in recent months for containing diethylene glycol, or DEG, which is also used as a low-cost — and sometimes deadly — substitute for glycerin, a sweetener in many drugs.
A set of "strict certification and evaluation procedures" is being drawn up by China's Health Ministry and the China Certification and Accreditation Administration, the China News Service said, citing an announcement made during a national symposium. No other details were given.
Worries over the safety of Chinese exports began earlier this year when the deaths of dogs and cats in North America were linked to pet food containing Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine.
Since then, U.S. authorities have also banned or turned away a long list of Chinese products, including toxic fish, juice containing unsafe colour additives and popular toy trains decorated with lead paint. Those actions have awakened fears that China's chronic domestic product safety problems were now becoming a global scourge.
Countries in North and South America, as well as Asia, have banned Chinese-made toothpaste because of its DEG content, although there have been no reports of health problems stemming from the product.
Chinese officials have said tests carried out in 2000 by Chinese experts proved that toothpaste containing less than 15.6 per cent DEG was harmless.
Other major buyers such as Japan and the European Union have pushed Beijing to improve inspections as its goods make their way through global markets. Chinese authorities have vowed stronger safety measures while highlighting problems with imports from other countries.
China's food safety watchdog said Tuesday that 19.1 per cent — about one-fifth — of products made for domestic consumption were found to be substandard in the first half of 2007. Canned and preserved fruit and dried fish were the most problematic, primarily because of excessive bacteria and additives, the agency said.
Though the survey covered many different products, it focused on food, common consumer goods, farming machinery and fertilizers.
Most recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would detain Chinese catfish, basa and dace, as well as shrimp and eel after repeated testing turned up contamination with drugs that have not been approved in America for use in farmed seafood.
In response, China's quality administration issued a number of new measures designed to ensure the quality of exported farmed seafood, telling its local bureaus to "fully understand the side-effects and major loss of the U.S. decision to the Chinese seafood industry."