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China: A Thousand Food Safety Crackdowns in 2011

Chinese authorities say they have solved over 1,000 severe food safety cases so far this year in a growing effort to combat a string of high-profile scandals.

The latest crackdown, which focused on the use of clenbuterol, a drug used to promote growth and leanness in pigs, resulted in 135 arrests. Officials also destroyed eight illegal drug manufacturing sites and four storage houses, according to official state media.

Late last week, China’s Ministry of Public Security released a statement touting the recent crackdowns.

“Some local police departments have adopted innovative measures such as setting up special food crime investigating organs and publicizing complaint hotlines in order to take initiative in checking and cracking down on food crimes,” said the statement.

Yesterday, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng echoed the government’s commitment to improving food safety standards, vowing that city officials would employ the “toughest measures” to curb illegal food practices.

Authorities have a long way to go in overhauling China’s food safety system. In the past several weeks alone, hundreds have been seriously sickened by clenbuteral-tainted pork, over a dozen noodle makers were ordered to stop production because they were using ink, industrial dyes and paraffin wax as ingredients, and 16 tons of pork was pulled from the marketplace for containing sodium borate, a chemical that seemingly transforms cheap pork into darker, higher-value “beef.” Chinese officials also arrested 12 people for involvement in a 40-ton bean sprout debacle, in which farmers were using sodium nitrite (a known carcinogen), urea, antibiotics, and a plant hormone called 6-benzaledenine to make the sprouts grow faster and look shinier.

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