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Chinese tire maker lashes out against U.S. recall

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BEIJING (AP) _ Firing back over product safety fears, China's Health Ministry accused foreign media Friday of exaggerating the country's food purity problems, while a Chinese tire maker at the centre of a huge U.S. recall accused the American importer of distortions.

While China faces ``severe challenges'' in ensuring food safety, foreign media are playing up the problems and have ulterior motives, Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an told a news conference.

``The question of food safety is a problem the whole world faces,'' Mao said.

``Foreign media are using irrelevant cases or just a few cases to make the safety issue much bigger than it is and have linked this to the success of hosting the Olympics'' next summer in Beijing, he said.

Mao's comments came as tire maker Hangzhou Zhongce leveled its accusations at U.S. importer Foreign Tire Sales Inc., which announced Thursday it would recall 255,000 tires it says are defective because they lack a safety feature that prevents tread separation.

The Union, N.J.-based company has been sued by the families of two men killed when their van crashed in Pennsylvania in August 2006. The lawsuit says the van had tires made by China's Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co.

Hangzhou Zhongce said the U.S. company has given three conflicting accounts of the accident to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which ordered a recall of as many as 450,000 tires in June.

``From these three different explanations of the same case, it's clear that FTS is using nonexistent facts to mislead the public and is trying to achieve commercial gain by getting people's sympathy,'' Hangzhou Zhongce said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

According to the statement, the U.S. tire importer first blamed the accident on a tire defect, but then said the van had three Hangzhou Zhongce tires and one tire from another brand. Zhongce said it was possible the other tire could have caused the crash.

On July 27, FTS noted that a police report said the accident could have caused the tire damage found afterward, the statement said.

The U.S. importer ``distorted the facts and applied for a tire recall with the NHTSA by using actions that were not objective,'' it said.

The Americans say the tires lack a gum strip, a key safety feature that binds the belts of a tire to each other. Foreign Tire Sales said that while some tires did have a gum strip, it was about half the width the company expected.

Chinese regulators said last month they had determined the tires met American safety standards.

Hangzhou Zhongce, China's second-biggest tire manufacturer, said earlier it fully co-operated with NHTSA and found no evidence the tires had any structural defects or lacked safety features.

Mao said the Health Ministry dealt with 111,226 cases of illegal food production in 2006 while inspecting products including baby food, health supplements and additives. Some 29,571 businesses were shut down and 1,542.24 tonnes of goods were destroyed, he said.

The ministry has established a daily supervision and examination system targeting small food producers and is monitoring 61 chemical contaminants in 54 types of food, including Sudan Red dye and formaldehyde, a preservative and an embalming fluid that has been linked to cancer in humans, Mao said. He did not give details.

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Chinese tire maker lashes out against U.S. recall
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