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China Defends Safety of Consumer Exports


China is defending the safety of its consumer products after several international health scares. Critics have accused Chinese companies of exporting substandard products including food and medicines. But analysts in Beijing say the government is wary of giving in to international pressure, because of concerns it will appear weak domestically. Sam Beattie reports for VOA from Beijing.

Chinese products have been blamed for recent animal deaths in the United States caused by contaminated pet food. The stories have raised concerns about the general quality and safety of Chinese exports, especially when it comes to food.

Chinese officials have hit back at the criticism, saying their government pays great attention to consumer safety and has worked hard to protect health.

But Joanna Brent, a spokeswoman in Beijing for the World Health Organization, says while China has made some improvements in safety standards, the WHO would like to see better controls.

"It is really important to take a system-based approach to food safety," she said. "Rather than just taking checks at the end of the line when food is on the plate, it is very important to be undertaking checks at every stage."

A Chinese official said that as the world's largest exporter of consumer products, China understands the need to show it is a responsible manufacturer.

Beijing-based political analyst Russell Moses says China has two agendas. One is to please international community. The second is to portray a strong image domestically, and to make any changes on its own terms.

"The global one is to be seen as responsive and responsible, that is clearly what Beijing wants, but on other hand it does not want to be seen as kowtowing to the outside world, bowing to international pressure to change particular policy and standards," he said.

Moses says China will move at its own speed to correct problems of food safety, but if there are more product safety incidents it could force the government to move faster to increase oversight of manufacturers.

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