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China says Food Safety, Production Improving but Challenges Remain


China says its food safety is improving after crackdowns on illegal food additives and pesticides, but officials have acknowledged that the country still has a way to go to reach international standards. China's many food safety problems became an international concern after a series of tainted exports came to light last year. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Chinese officials declared Tuesday that a four-month campaign to reduce illegal pesticides and steroids in foods has achieved success.

China's Vice Minister of Agriculture, Gao Hongbin, told a press briefing the government had stopped the use of five toxic pesticides, and reduced the excessive application of approved pesticides.

He says similar progress has been made in reducing illegal steroids used in pig feed, and illegal toxins used to improve fish production.

But he admits that acceptable safety standards are still some way off.

Gao says China still has many problems in food safety and this fact cannot be ignored. He says the main problem is different levels of development and compliance with regulations in different parts of the country.

China came under international condemnation in 2007 for tainted food exports ranging from toothpaste to pet food to fish. The incidents damaged the country's food safety image, and affected trade.

The United States last year refused imports of several kinds of Chinese farm-raised fish and seafood, demanding that suppliers first prove the products did not contain banned toxins.

The international attention increased concerns about a far bigger problem, China's domestic food safety.

State media quoted an official public opinion poll Tuesday showing that almost two-thirds of Chinese surveyed were worried about food safety, and a third of city dwellers were concerned about the safety of their drinking water.