Sunday, July 15, 2007

BEIJING — China has suspended imports of chicken feet, pig ears and other animal products from seven U.S. companies, including the world’s largest meat processor, in an apparent attempt to turn the tables on American complaints about tainted products from China.

The American meat had contaminants including salmonella, feed additives and veterinary drugs, according to a list posted on the Web site of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine late Friday.

The U.S. and other countries have cracked down on Chinese products since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found in April that North American dogs and cats were poisoned by tainted Chinese pet food ingredients. Since then, a growing number of Chinese products have been found to be tainted with potentially toxic chemicals and other adulterants.

In recent weeks, Chinese authorities have been prominently announcing their own rejections of imports, including U.S. orange pulp, dried apricots, raisins and health supplements — apparently to show that they are not the only ones with food safety problems.

The Chinese agency said frozen poultry from Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat processor, was contaminated with salmonella.

Frozen chicken feet from Laurel, Miss.-based Sanderson Farms Inc. were tainted with residue of an anti-parasite drug, and frozen pork ribs from Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. contained the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine, the agency said.

Frozen pig ears from Kansas City, Mo.-based Van Luin Foods USA Inc. were found to contain ractopamine. Frozen chicken feet from Atlanta-based Intervision Foods was tainted with salmonella, and frozen pork from Atlanta’s AJC International Inc. was tainted with ractopamine, the agency said.

Both stewed chicken feet and pig ears are popular dishes in China.

Sausage casing from a seventh company, listed by the Chinese agency as “Thumph Foods,” was also found to contain ractopamine, according to the Chinese agency. It was not clear whether it was referring to Triumph Foods of St. Joseph, Mo.

Cargill, Van Luin and “Thumph Foods” were given 45 days to correct the contamination problems, while the others were suspended from imports, though Beijing did not say for how long.

Although China supplies most of its own meat, its imports of foreign meat are growing. A contagious disease has killed tens of thousands of pigs in China this year, and many farmers have stopped raising pigs because of worries they would lose money if the animals die. As a result, prices of pork — the country’s staple meat — have shot up 43 percent, a jump so serious that China’s Cabinet held an emergency session and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made public appearances to address concerns.

Beijing has taken steps in recent days to improve the image of its products. It executed the former head of its drug regulation agency for taking bribes, and banned toothpaste makers from using a chemical found in antifreeze.

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