China Rejects Tainted U.S. food

( [email protected] ) Jun 26, 2007 10:38 AM EDT

BEIJING - Chinese inspectors have seized shipments of U.S.-made orange pulp and dried apricots containing high levels of bacteria and preservatives, the government said Tuesday.

The move appeared to be the latest attempt by China to show it is not the only country with food export safety problems.

Local departments have been ordered "to strengthen quarantine and inspections on food imports from America," according to a notice announcing the seizures posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China's main food safety monitor.

Importers have been asked to "make sure that food safety requirements are met in contracts when importing U.S. food so that trade risks are lowered," the notice said.

The orange pulp and apricots were seized in the eastern province of Shandong and the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, the notice said.

The pulp, from the Modern Skill Co. Ltd., and the fruit from Vacaville, California-based Mariani Packing Company Inc., contained "excessive bacteria, mold and sulfur dioxide," the notice said without elaborating.

It also did not give any details on when the seizures took place, how big the shipments were or in which city each shipment was seized.

The safety administration notice said the pulp was still being processed but that the apricots had been destroyed. Sulfur dioxide is sometimes used as a preservative in dried fruit.

A man who answered the telephone at the safety administration said he had no more details beyond what was on the Web site.

A security guard who answered the phone at Mariani Packing said the office was closed and there was no immediate response to messages left seeking comment.

In recent months, U.S. inspectors have banned or turned away a growing number of Chinese exports containing high levels of toxins or potentially deadly chemicals, including frozen fish, juice and toothpaste.

Seizures and public fears over the safety of Chinese food threaten billions of dollars worth of exports, prompting the government to emphasize that such problems are individual cases, not systemic, and that other countries have similar issues.

Safety officials have toughened standards and export controls, but also prominently announce rejections of imports, apparently to turn the tables on critics.

Earlier this month, inspectors in the ports of Ningbo and Shenzhen turned away or destroyed shipments of health supplements and raisins because they said the products did not meets safety standards.