China to issue blacklist of harmful food additives

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BEIJING (AP) China will issue a blacklist of food additives that could be harmful, state media said Friday in the wake of a scandal over tainted milk believed to have killed six children and sickened hundreds of thousands.

The government also will step up testing of foods for banned additives, the official English-language China Daily newspaper reported.

"The Ministry of Health is working with related departments on the blacklist that would be updated constantly," Su Zhi, the ministry's deputy director of the health supervision bureau, was quoted as saying.

Chinese dairy suppliers are accused of adding melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical used in the production of plastics, to watered-down milk to make it appear higher in protein on quality tests.

It was the latest product-safety scare to hit Chinese-made products, prompting stores to pull from shelves items ranging from baby formula to cookies.

Awareness of the widespread use of food additives has increased in the wake of the milk scandal. A front-page article last week in China's Southern Weekend newspaper questioned whether the addition of bleaching agents to flour was healthy.

Officials in China have been working to restore public confidence in its food chain.

"We will conduct stricter tests on blacklisted substances while checking food production lines," Su was quoted as saying by China Daily. He made the remarks on a China Central Television program Thursday, the paper said.

The ministry this week issued a new count of 294,000 babies who suffered urinary problems from drinking contaminated infant formula, a six-fold increase from the last tally in September.

China now has several different standards for food additives, the paper said, but they are not necessarily consistent with each other.

The new regulations would start with the dairy industry first, and then modify existing food safety standards after China's draft food-safety law is passed. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said last month the milk scandal will spur the introduction of China's first major food safety law, which is currently being reviewed.

The measure is expected to impose safety standards on food additives, ban all harmful chemicals and allow the government to recall unsafe food if companies fail to do so.



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