Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Even As China Cracks Down on Food Safety, Recall is Issued for Chinese-Made Tires

From the New York Times:


SHANGHAI, June 27 — After weeks of insisting that food here is largely safe, regulators in China said Tuesday that they had recently closed 180 food plants and that inspectors had uncovered more than 23,000 food safety violations.

The nationwide crackdown, which began in December, also found that many small food makers were using industrial chemicals, dyes and other illegal ingredients in making a range of food products, everything from candy to seafood.

(T)he government has moved aggressively in recent months to enforce the nation’s food safety regulations and to crack down on fake and counterfeit foods.

But Tuesday’s announcement, which appeared on the web site of the country’s top quality watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, has added fuel to concerns about rampant fraud in the food industry here.

Regulators said 33,000 law enforcement officials combed the nation and turned up illegal food making dens, counterfeit bottled water, fake soy sauce, banned food additives and illegal meat processing plants.

“These are not isolated cases,” Han Yi, director of the administration’s quality control and inspection department told the state-run media.

China Daily, the nation’s English language newspaper, said industrial chemicals, including dyes, mineral oils, paraffin wax, formaldehyde and malachite green, had been found in everything from candy, pickles and biscuits to seafood.

Regulators said they also learned that sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid were being used to process shark fin and ox tendon.

These industrial chemicals are often toxic or corrosive and can be used in everything from drain cleaners, detergent and fertilizer to surfboard wax.

These types of findings have become all too common in China. For instance, in 2005, officials in south China found a company repackaging food waste and shipping it to 10 other regions. And just last week, officials said a company in Anhui province, not far from Shanghai, was selling a two-year-old rice dumpling mix as fresh, according to the state-controlled media.

Experts here say the problem is that the country’s food regulations are not being enforced and small businessmen feel they need to go to extraordinary lengths to make a profit.

Read the entire article on the New York Times.

In other news of substandard products: a New Jersey company announced a recall of hearly half a million tires made in China. But Foreign Tire Sales says it can't afford to pay for the recall and tire replacements, so it's asking the federal government for help.

The defective tires, used on light trucks and SUV’s, have been sold under the names of Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS. The problem: tire separation.

Lawyers say these tires are responsible for at least one fatal accident last year .

(Listen to Adam Davison's report broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition today.)

This tire recall follows several other recalls of Chinese-made products recently, including toothpaste containing a poisonous chemical, contaminated pet food, and Thomas the Train Engine toys decorated with lead paint.

The New York Times's David Barboza also wrote about the defective tires, and reports:

"They were supposed to include a gum strip between the steel bands that prevented them from separating. Mr. Lavigne said the gum strip cost less than a dollar a tire to install.

"But in October 2005, officials at Foreign Tire Sales became suspicious that the tires were made without the strips.

"Nearly a year later, in September 2006, Hangzhou Zhongce [the Chinese manufacturer]officials acknowledged that they had “unilaterally” decided to omit the gum strip, according to a report by Foreign Tire Sales for federal regulators."

You can read the whole article here.

RELATED: John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, says Chinese companies are not adhering to international safety standards. Frisbie talked about whether recent bad news has changed American business interests in China on NPR's Morning Edition today.

Listen to the interview here .