The United States is working on deals with China to bolster safety controls on Chinese-made foods and medical products, the U.S. said on Friday as international consumer alarm continued to pummel Beijing.
In the latest scare, U.S. toy maker Mattel Inc. said on Wednesday that it was recalling 1.5 million Chinese-made toys worldwide because their paint may contain too much lead.
A delegation of Washington officials in the Chinese capital hammered out basic frameworks for two agreements seeking to reassure U.S. consumers that Chinese-made goods met safety standards, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt said in a press release.
The agreements would increase cooperation and information sharing between the U.S. and Chinese governments on these safety issues, said the announcement issued through the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
Washington would also enhance the technical capacity of China's regulatory agencies to help ensure Chinese exports to the U.S. meet U.S. safety standards.
The two sides would meet later this month to continue work on the documents, Leavitt said.
One prospective deal covers food and animal feed, and the other drugs and medical devices -- but not toys, the latest product to become embroiled in safety worries.
The announcement comes in the wake of a wave of health scares about China's expanding exports that have rattled consumers and brought congressional calls for tougher policing of imports.
The United States stepped up inspections of imports from China after a chemical additive in pet food caused the death of some pets there this spring.
Since then, poisonous ingredients have been found in Chinese exports of toys, toothpaste and fish, while the deaths of patients in Panama was blamed on improperly labeled Chinese chemicals that were mixed into cough syrup.
Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng on Thursday repeated the government line that Chinese products were overwhelmingly safe, and called on foreign media not to hype the problems of a small minority of goods or companies.
When problems occur, we never shirk, have always sought truth from the facts and responsibly deal with them, Gao said in a statement on his ministry's Web site (www.mofcom.gov.cn).
The U.S. delegation, led by Health and Human Services chief of staff Rich McKeown and including officials from the Food and Drug Administration, arrived in China on Tuesday for a five-day visit.