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China turns table on unsafe food claims

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: China is complaining about the image problem it has in the foreign media. The country's top quality control person says the alarm about food safety was unnecessary. Scott Tong is our reporter in Shanghai. What are you hearing about the timing of today's accusation, Scott?

Scott Tong: Right now there's a growing sense of trade tension between China and the United States, and in China often when there's this kind of tension, the target is foreign companies and the target is the foreign news media.

Krizner: Now Scott, on the reverse of this, the Chinese also have concerns about products that they are importing from the U.S. What's going on here?

Tong: Well on Friday, giant U.S. companies including Cargill and Tyson Foods, these are giant exporters of fresh beef and chicken and pork, were put on a list of banned items coming into China. Now these companies say that the reasons for the ban were bogus, that this was just a tit-for-tat kind of trade situation here. And they say that the Chinese government is trying to create this impression that dangerous food is everywhere, it's not just here in China. Now having said that, there is some truth to that, according to what a lot of people say, that you're going to run into quality questions if you go to other developing countries like Bangladesh or India, it's just that China's scale is so vast, that chances are if something's dangerous, it's probably coming from China.

Krizner: What are the Chinese doing that is really proactive to deal with this food safety issue?

Tong: They're doing a whole lot. Several hundred small food processing factories have been shut down here in China. There's a new monitoring system on the way. There's stepped up supervision. It's gonna be slow, a lot slower than many of us would like, but it's going in the right direction because of all the attention the government is paying to it right now.

Krizner: That's our Scott Tong in Shanghai.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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