September 25, 2007
China's says ractopamine ban is for food safety
China, the world's biggest pork consumer, said the "categorical'' ban on pork produced with ractopamine, is part of its campaign to improve food safety.
Li Jinxiang, deputy veterinary director of the Ministry of Agriculture, at a press conference in Beijing on September 24 said that China does not approve any substances that fall in the category of veterinary drugs known as beta agonist, including ractopamine.
China recently blocked some pork shipments from the US on discovery of ractopamine, Xinhua News Agency said September 15. The US, which approves ractopamine use, said it wants China to change its opposition to the growth hormone.
Li said the ban is "not an issue of using a technical trade barrier,'' as there are only about 20 countries that permit the use of ractopamine and China does not share the US view that the substance is a safe product.
China is trying to curb use of forbidden pesticides, animal drugs and feed additives as part of its four-month campaign to enhance product quality after problems from pesticide-tainted fish to lead-painted toys tarnished the "Made-in-China'' image.
US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, frustrated over China's unwillingness to ease restrictions on pork imports, said on September 19 that China's approach toward ractopamine isn't "science-based.''
However, US China's ban on pork additives was directed toward the substance known as clenbuterol, which is harmful to humans, while ractopamine isn't, even though it's in the same group of drugs as clenbuterol, Dennis Erpelding, chairman of US Meat Export Federation, said in a September 16 interview.
Almost 100 percent of China's slaughterhouses, wholesale markets and farm produce markets comply with the ban on the use of clenbuterol, according to information given to reporters at the conference today. It didn't mention the use of ractopamine.
To improve agricultural produce safety, China also wants 100 percent of its 677 identified major wholesale markets to be under a system of close monitoring and inspection by the end of this year, up from 71 percent now, said Gao Hongbin, vice minister of agriculture, at the briefing.
China's goal is also to step up its watch on product safety for the future beyond the four-month campaign, he said.
China is also combating the use of unqualified pesticides and veterinary drugs such as the vaccine for avian flu.
The country early this month culled thousands of ducks, thought to be vaccinated, after the H5N1 killed some in southern Guangdong province, the Standard newspaper reported Sept. 17.
Li said the infected ducklings did not have enough to antibody after the vaccination.
Li also denied allegations that China is hiding the true extent of the Blue Ear hog virus outbreaks for commercial interests, because it hasn't sent samples of the virus to international organizations for testing.
Unlike some countries which lack the facilities, China doesn't need international assistance to diagnose and identify the pathology of the virus, he said.
The blue ear disease, or porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome, has affected 290,000 pigs this year, Li said, without elaborating.