Olympics: US Team Told Food Is Safe, Enjoy Chinese Cuisine

BEIJING : There is no need for the US Olympic team to ship their own food to the Beijing Games, Chinese officials said Thursday as they insisted local cuisine was safe to eat despite a series of scares.

Citing the danger of additives such as steroids in Chinese produce that could lead to positive doping tests, US officials reportedly plan to send tonnes of their own food including beef and chicken to Beijing for the Games.

But officials here said Chinese food was safe and urged US athletes to put aside any food safety concerns.

“The standards of Olympic food safety are much higher than international standards so all the delegations can enjoy the food we provide,” said Tang Yunhua, spokeswoman for the Beijing Municipal Office of Food Safety.

The New York Times reported this month that the US Olympic Committee had arranged to ship 25,000 pounds (11 tonnes) of food to Beijing two months ahead of the Games.

As usual during Olympic Games, no delegations will be allowed to bring their own food supplies into the Athletes Village, where several restaurants will supply meals 24 hours a day.

But US officials intend to serve up three meals a day to their athletes at their training headquarters, the nearby Beijing Normal University.

In addition to concerns about steroids, the report said US Olympic officials were worried about pesticides and additives, and that hygiene standards for meat were lower in China than the United States.

More than 10,000 athletes will be in Beijing for the August 8-24 Games along with an expected 500,000 foreign visitors.

Tang said all competitors would be safe from health hazards related to contaminated food thanks to a campaign launched five years ago that had cleaned up China’s food supply chain.

“The overall scenario is good, it has improved a lot,” she told a press conference.

“We have a basket of measures to guarantee food safety and to monitor the food safety situation in the Olympic venues (so) food safety will be guaranteed and ensured.”

On doping concerns, Lu Yong, director of the Beijing Municipal Food Safety Monitoring Group, said the reported US fears had no scientific basis.

“There is no report that we have seen suggesting that athletes who have eaten meat which contains (banned substances) have ever tested positive for drugs,” he said. “If you come across such a report, let me know.”

Food security is a key issue in China ahead of the August Olympics after a spate of scares in recent years involving food and product safety.

In the latest case, Chinese-made dumplings contaminated by pesticides sickened thousands of Japanese last month.

To keep the Games free of similar concerns, officials have begun implementing rigorous plans including round-the-clock guards for Olympic kitchens, food storage areas under video surveillance and food transport vehicles fitted with global positioning systems.

White mice will also be used to test food destined to be eaten by athletes.

But Tang said that food safety outside the Olympic venues would also be guaranteed.

“In order to ensure food safety for the Olympic Games we have to guarantee food safety for Beijing,” she said.

“Only when the overall food safety has been improved can Olympic food security be guaranteed.”

– AFP /ls

Channel News Asia

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