China Launches Food Safety Initiative

China says thousands of small food processing companies have to clean up or shut down. The move comes a day after China executed its former top food and drug regulator after he was convicted of corruption.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We turn now to a subject we've been reporting on: food exports from China.

In a moment, China breaks into the gourmet market.

First though, a crackdown. China has announced an effort to get hundreds of thousands of small food processing companies to either clean up or shut down. The move comes a day after China executed its former top food and drug regulator after he was convicted of corruption.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: The general administration of quality supervision said in a notice today that more than half of China's 450,000 food processing plants were either uncertified or partially certified. It said raising hygiene requirements would probably force the closure of half of these firms by 2009. The administration also said it will crack down on the use of recycled ingredients and banned additives in food processing.

Chinese regulators shut down over 150,000 unlicensed food processors and retailers last year. China's government continued its efforts at damage control following a string of food safety scandals. State media ran editorials justifying the execution yesterday of former FDA head Zheng Xiaoyu. The Communist Party's flagship People's Daily newspaper said that Zheng had seriously damaged the interests of the country and the people, and his taking bribes in exchange for approving fake medicines had caused serious consequences. One antibiotic approved by the FDA on Zheng's watch killed 10 people.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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