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Officials to use satellites for food safety

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BEIJING (AP) — China said yesterday it will use global positioning satellites to ensure food safety at the Beijing Olympics as it steps up efforts to blacklist manufacturers who violate safety regulations.

Wang Wei, an executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic Committee, said the high-tech system will monitor food production, processing factories and food hygiene during the games to make sure healthy food is delivered to the 10,500 athletes residing in the Olympic Village.

Food products will be affixed with an "Olympic food safety logistics code," and transportation vehicles will be tracked using global positioning satellites, Wang said. He did not provide further details of either plan.

"The whole process will be monitored from the start of production through transportation to the end users," Wang said. "We are very confident about ensuring food safety in Beijing."

Wang said extra measures also would be taken to ensure food safety for the general public.

"During the games, some special monitoring mechanisms will also be applied to monitor restaurants and public food sellers to let people know how they can buy safe food," he said.

The Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8, 2008, are a huge source of pride for China.

In a separate announcement, Beijing-based Qianxihe Food Group, an Olympic sponsor, said it had begun selling a hormone-free line of pork for the games, a company official said.

The company's pigs have been fed food without hormones and are part of the "Olympics Special Supply Pork" range, which will be consumed by athletes and can be bought in supermarkets by ordinary citizens, said the official, who would give only her surname, Tong.

Questions over the safety of Chinese products arose earlier this year when a Chinese-made pet food ingredient was linked to the deaths of cats and dogs in North America. Since then, Chinese goods ranging from toothpaste to tires have been banned or recalled in numerous countries.

The United States also has blocked imports of five types of farmed seafood from China that were found to contain unapproved drugs.

Wang's comments came after Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng announced that 429 exporters have been blacklisted and punished for producing dangerously substandard products. The companies include two whose products were implicated in the pet deaths in North America.

Chinese authorities, while initially unwilling to address the problem, in recent weeks have released details on their efforts almost daily and announced aggressive campaigns to crack down on makers of shoddy products, both for domestic consumption and for export.

The state-run Beijing News said five brands of dried fish snacks have been pulled off shelves in Beijing because they contained formaldehyde, a preservative and an embalming fluid that has been linked to cancer in humans.

In a recent inspection, the Commerce Ministry said it found that 21 percent of soft drinks produced in 13 provinces and municipalities were unfit for consumption because they were filled with bacteria and high levels of artificial sweeteners and preservatives.

Last month the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, a product safety watchdog, said it had shut the offices of the two companies and revoked their licenses.

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