U.S. wants more Chinese oversight

Fish and toothpaste now on list of problems.

Published May 25, 2007

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials asked their Chinese counterparts to increase oversight of food and drug exports Thursday as the list of potentially deadly products reaching U.S. shores kept growing.

The U.S. asked China to require exporters to register with the government, amid other measures meant to provide greater assurance of the safety of their products. The requests came amid ongoing problems with Chinese exports, including chemically spiked pet food ingredients and, as of Thursday, potentially poisonous toothpaste and toxic fish.

"The Chinese understand very well that any nation that does not create an atmosphere of trust with consumers and customers, they will be disadvantaged quickly on the world market, " Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told reporters.

A Chinese Embassy spokeswoman declined to comment other than to refer a reporter to previous statements made by government officials. Earlier this week, Vice Premier Wu Yi, in Washington for high-level economic talks, warned against politicizing economic and trade issues.

On Thursday, even more potential problems were disclosed: The FDA said it was stopping all imports of Chinese toothpaste to test for a deadly chemical reportedly found in tubes sold elsewhere in the world. The testing will look for diethylene glycol, a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid, spokesman Doug Arbesfeld said. The imports will be released only if they test negative for the chemical. The announcement came following reports that tainted Chinese toothpaste was sold in Australia, the Dominican Republic and Panama.

"Obviously, there is a problem in China. It keeps getting bigger and we keep seeing more problems in different realms, " said Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America.

The FDA also warned consumers not to buy or eat imported fish labeled as monkfish because it might actually be pufferfish, which contains a potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin. Eating pufferfish that contains the potent toxin could result in serious illness or death, the FDA said.

An importer was recalling 282 22-pound boxes labeled as Chinese monkfish that it distributed to three states.

Fast Facts:

Recent problems

Problems with Chinese imports since March:

- Pet food ingredients were found to have been spiked with the industrial chemical melamine.

- Imports blocked in April by the FDA included filthy mushrooms, drug-laced frozen eel and juice made with unsafe color additives.

- Chinese toothpaste will now be tested by the FDA for a deadly chemical reportedly found in tubes sold elsewhere.

-An importer is recalling boxes labeled as Chinese monkfish after FDA testing revealed tetrodotoxin, a sometimes deadly toxin.

Source: Associated Press