Ten medications were banned by China’s capital for exaggerating their effectiveness amid rising concerns over fake and tainted products in China's food and drug supply chains, a newspaper reported Friday.
While the drugs were genuine, the results they claimed to produce in fighting high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments were proved phony in clinical testing, the Beijing News reported.
Stores in the city have been told to stop selling them and media outlets that carried their advertising were told to print retractions, the paper said. The orders were the first application of a newly passed law on drug advertising, it said.
The announcement came a day after the United States banned farmed seafood from China, adding to a growing list of tainted and defective Chinese products that could pose health risks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said repeated testing had turned up contamination with drugs not approved in the United States for use in farmed seafood. U.S. officials said there have been no reports of illnesses.
Reached Friday by telephone, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Wang Xinpei said he was still investigating the ban and had no immediate comment.
On Thursday, Wang told reporters at a news conference that Chinese exports were safe, in a rare direct commentary on rising international fears over Chinese products.
Following the ban's announcement, China's embassy in the United States issued a statement saying the government has a "strict supervision regime," but also attached "great importance to opinions and feedback from importing countries and regions," according to the Wall Street Journal.
The statement called also for joint measures on aquatic food safety with China's main food safety regulator, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
"When food safety is concerned, the Chinese quality supervision and quarantine agency has always adopted a serious, responsible and cooperative attitude," the statement said.
The FDA said sampling of Chinese imported fish between October and May repeatedly found traces of the antibiotics nitrofuran and fluoroquinolone, as well as the antifungals malachite green and gentian violet. The FDA will allow individual shipments of the five seafood species into the country if a company can show the products are free of residues of these drugs.
Beyond the fish, federal regulators have recently warned consumers about lead paint in toy trains, defective tires, and toothpaste made with diethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient more commonly found in antifreeze. All the products were imported from China.
The safety scandals have put at risk surging Chinese agricultural exports to the United States, which reached US$2.26 billion last year, led by poultry products, sausage casings, shellfish, spices and apple juice.
They also raise the possibility of retaliation against U.S. food exports to China. Earlier this week, the government said it had seized shipments of U.S.-made orange pulp and dried apricots containing high levels of bacteria and preservatives.
Fears that China's chronic food safety problems were going global surfaced earlier this year with the deaths of dogs and cats in North America blamed on Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine.
Since then, Beijing has striven to appear active in cleaning up problem areas. Earlier this week, inspectors announced they had closed 180 food factories in China in the first half of this year and seized tons of candy, pickles, crackers and seafood tainted with formaldehyde, illegal dyes and industrial wax.
Managers of two companies blamed for exporting the tainted wheat gluten have also been detained, and China's Cabinet has ordered a thorough crackdown against unsafe practices in the food industry.