March 14, 2002 The Age (Melbourne) by John SchaubleBeijing -- China this week slapped bans on a range of imported cosmetics because they are made from substances that could spread mad cow disease. The move appears to be the latest twist in an escalating row with several European countries over Chinese food exports tainted by agricultural chemicals.
China's Ministry of Public Health is demanding that products from 18 countries must be shown to be free of cow and sheep offal before they can be offered for sale. In the meantime, shops have been ordered to remove the cosmetics from their shelves by April 20. Meanwhile, China has rejected claims by Britain and the European Union that an assortment of its food products is tainted by antibiotics linked to a serious blood disorder and, possibly, cancer.
Britain's Food Standards Agency recently called for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese honey from shop shelves after tests revealed traces of the veterinary antibiotic chloramphenicol in some jars of Chinese and blended honey.
In January, the EU banned rabbit meat, molluscs, crustaceans, frozen shrimps, prawns, pet food and honey because of the antibiotic's presence.
Imports of Chinese beef, lamb and pork are already illegal.
Last week, Germany complained that it had found traces of the antibiotic in Chinese freshwater crab, fish and sausage ingredients. Russia said last week it would halt imports of Chinese pork, beef and poultry from tomorrow because China had not cooperated with its veterinary services.
Australia routinely tests food from China and other countries for the presence of drugs and other contaminants.
Craig Jamieson, of Australia's food standard's overview body, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, said he was aware of European reports, but there have been no new bans on Chinese food products.
The authority has no immediate plans to target Chinese food products imported to Australia in view of the European reports.
Chinese products recently affected by the authority's action have included 12 types of soy sauce after tests showed that they contained unsafe levels of the chloropropanol 3-MCPD, a possible cancer-causing agent.
China's former vice-minister of agriculture, Lu Ming, told a session of China's People's Political Consultative Council this week that there were problems with the use of agricultural chemicals in China. "From what I know the food security in our country is improving, chemical residue is dropping dramatically," he said.