Source AP ©

774 people arrested in China for substandard products

China arrested 774 people for producing and selling fake goods, partly to suppress worries over the quality of its products.

The General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the arrests were the result of 626 criminal investigations nationwide into the manufacture and sale of fake or substandard food, medicine or agricultural products between August and mid-October.

"All local authorities and relevant departments have maintained a high-pressure attitude toward their crackdown on the illegal activity of producing and selling fake products," the AQSIQ, one of China's main quality control agencies, said in a notice posted on its Web site.

"One after another, authorities have broken large-scale cases, investigated and taken care of them, shut down a large number of illegal hubs of activity, effectively striking and intimidating criminals," it said without providing any other details.

The actions were part of a four-month quality-control campaign launched in August by a Cabinet-level panel, a high-profile attempt by Beijing's leadership to show the world it was serious about tackling its perennial food and drug safety woes.

China' exports have come under intense scrutiny this year because a number of potentially deadly chemicals have been found in goods like toothpaste, toys and seafood. The international outrage gathered speed in March after a tainted pet food ingredient made in China was blamed for causing the deaths of cats and dogs in North America.

Also Monday, Gao Hongbin, the vice minister for agriculture, said a system of using barcodes to track catfish is helping Chinese consumers begin to trace their food another measure that would improve quality.

Gao said barcode, which costs just pennies, was an example of the progress that has been made two months into the four-month campaign.

Barcode technology, which allows people to read information on products, is not common on agricultural products in China.

"You can call up directly and find out where it was produced, what type it is, and if any pesticides were used and what kind of pesticides ... you can search all of this information out," Gao said.

"After they added the barcode the value of the product went up two yuan (US$0.30; 0.18 euros) so wouldn't you say this is good for the producers?" he said.

But Gao told a news conference that the success of the campaign, headed by Vice Premier Wu Yi, depended on the cooperation of lower-level officials.

Gao said the use of technology and better education will help step up supervision of products and ensure that when tainted products are discovered, they are not sold and a traceable link is established.

In China many pesticides have different names and are not labeled properly, so an interactive online network will also enable China to respond to specific complaints, Gao said.

During the campaign the government said more than 300,000 technical staff went to rural areas in the last month to help more than 18 million rural households.

Nearly 200 illegal food companies have been shut amid more than 10,000 cases of violations of the law.

"We will ensure the results will be longer lasting," Gao told reporters.

In addition, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in the southern city of Nanning on Monday and agreed to strengthen cooperation in food safety, consumers' rights and push for the quick exchange of information on food safety.

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