China To Launch Four-Month Food Safety Campaign

by VR Sreeraman on Dec 9 2008 1:26 PM

China will launch a four-month food safety campaign from Wednesday to prevent the toxic chemical melamine and other harmful substances from ending up on the dinner table, the government said.

The crackdown, which also targets excessive levels of additives, comes amid a widening scandal over tainted milk that has sickened hundreds of thousands of babies and shocked the nation.

"The recent major food safety incident... showed it is currently a very serious problem that illegal non-edible substances are added and additives are in excessive amounts in food items," the government said on its website.

The campaign will start out in a relatively mild manner, with food companies to correct their own shortcomings during the first month, the statement said.

Over the following two months, government officials will start hitting harder, raiding food producers that are deemed high-risk and carrying out random checks of markets, according to the statement.

During the last month, the government will seek to cut off the supply of non-food substances to the food-producing sector, it said.

Authorities will also publish a list of inedible substances and additives that are most likely to be added to foods, the website said.

According to the latest official tally, 294,000 children were sickened by consuming dairy products containing melamine, an industrial chemical mixed into milk to make protein levels appear higher.