Chinese and U.S. Officials Come Together On Safety Agreement

For the past year, China has been at the center of several export scandals, from contaminated pet food to toxic toys.

Now, Chinese and U.S. officials have come together on a food safety agreement, designed to ease consumer fears over the 'Made in China' label.

It's taken six months, but officials from both China and the U.S. believe they now have a way to ensure the food that leaves Chinese shores is safe.

"We are putting in place safe guards that have not existed before because this problem has not existed in the way that it now exists worldwide," said Mike Leavitt, the Health and Human Services secretary.

China's food producers will be required to register with the government, their exports electronically tracked from farm to factory, all the way they'll have to meet U.S. standards.

Factories will be inspected not only by Chinese authorities, but officials from the U.S. Health Department and FDA will also be allowed to make random checks with just five days notice.

"We will punish those whose products have problems, we will put them on our black list," stated one Chinese official.

But initially these new regulations will only apply to a few exports like sea food.

Certain fish and shrimp were banned earlier in 2007 from the U.S., because of high levels of antibiotics and cancer causing chemicals, as well as pet food and ingredients like wheat glutten, which is where all this began in March, when dogs and cats in the U.S. became sick and died because their food had been spiked with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, but is also a cheap way to fake high levels of protein.

"It's clear this is a watershed moment for China. Their economy is growing on the basis of exports. We are their number one customer," said Carlos Gutierrez, commerce secretary.

There is much at stake for China, last year alone it sold more than four-billion dollars worth of food to the U.S.

The new safety regulations puts responsibility on the American side as well, but it is clearly the Chinese who have the most to do, and the most to lose.

The agreements also call for the Chinese to improve access to relevant production facilities by U.S. officials.


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