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BEIJING - TOXIC bean sprouts, filthy cooking oil, drug-tainted pork: The relentless headlines in Chinese media have churned up queasy feelings for months about the dangers lurking in the nation's dinner bowls. |
The stories are grim reading but show China's usually strict censors are allowing the press more latitude to help it monitor a food industry long riddled with problems.
The central government has been cautiously encouraging a sudden burst in food safety muckraking. That's in contrast to before the new food safety campaign, when local officials would delay or quash reporting on food safety or the provincial government had to give permission for coverage of food scandals, said Peter Leedham, a China-based food testing executive.
'It was very tightly controlled. That seems to have gone now. There's much more openness,' said Mr Leedham, the managing director of Eurofins Technology Service in Suzhou.
Few think the looser controls on food reporting signal a broader reform of Chinese media, which remains strictly controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Blogging and publishing are also muzzled, and those who challenge the government risk being harassed or detained. Some, like the writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, have been convicted of inciting to subvert state power for their dissident writings. Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison term.
'Is it a US-style openness?' said Christopher Hickey, the US Food and Drug Administration's country director for China. 'Clearly not, but I do think it's one of these areas where there is a limited amount of freedom, more than there was in the past.' -- AP