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China trying to polish its image

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TEXT OF INTERVIEWMARK AUSTIN THOMAS: More controversy in China over tainted products. This morning Chinese officials were asked about small amounts of an industrial chemical discovered in toothpaste. Daniel Schearf is a freelance radio correspondent in Beijing. I asked him what the government is saying about this latest problem.

DANIEL SCHEARF: Well basically Chinese officials said that the tainted toothpaste only contained small amounts of this chemical used in engine coolants or antifreeze, and that the amounts were too small to have any serious effects on anyone’s health. And of course said that the Chinese government is going to be stepping up inspections of toothpaste. One thing that they really stressed was that they hoped the countries that had been complaining about Chinese toothpaste and pulling it off the shelves would take a pragmatic attitude towards this issue, in other words not make such a big deal of it.

THOMAS: With the Olympics coming up in Beijing, is China more sensitive to its image globally with issues like this?

SCHEARF: Oh absolutely and you know that’s one thing that we do see more and more of stories about is China stepping up a lot of its inspections of restaurants. Hygiene is certainly something that the Chinese are becoming more concerned about because they don’t want to be embarrassed when the Olympics rolls around and they want to present an image of China as being a very modern and very safe place to be.

THOMAS: Daniel Schearf, freelance correspondent, thank you so much for your time.

SCHEARF: No problem at all.

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