Chinese authorities promise to toughen control over illegal blood sales

China's Health Ministry announced strengthened controls Thursday to ensure the safety of the blood supply, vowing to crack down on illegal collections ten years after the country banned blood sales.

The announcement come days after state media reported the sale of fake blood protein to hospitals and pharmacies, a possibly life-threatening practice.

China outlawed blood sales after it was discovered that unclean blood buying businesses, especially in the central province of Henan, had passed HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to thousands of people in the 1990s.

"Illegal activities in blood collection will be severely cracked down on," the ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site. "Blood center licenses will be revoked if they fail to meet regulations."

Voluntary blood donations meet 95 percent of the demand, but illegal blood sales still exist in some areas, the ministry said.

A nationwide inspection of blood collection centers will be conducted later this year, and the ministry called for staff members to have regular training to improve their awareness of blood safety.

The Health Ministry's announcement was dated May 31, and it wasn't clear why it wasn't posted until Thursday.

There was reportedly one death from use of the counterfeit blood protein, but authorities have not said whether anyone has fallen ill.