December 17/Beijing/Voice of America News -- China has banned food producers from adding 17 substances, including some chemicals more commonly used as insecticides or disinfectants.

The list of additives banned by the Health Ministry included boric acid, formaldehyde and lye.

Recent inspections have found that some Chinese food producers have added boric acid to meat balls and noodles to increase elasticity. Boric acid is commonly used as a pesticide.

Inspectors have also found that some companies soak fish in water with formaldehyde and lye to make it appear fresher. The two substances are common ingredients in soap.

Health officials also warned local authorities to scrutinize 10 common foods, such as cookies, meats and flour, for the presence of potentially harmful food colorings and preservatives.

China's latest food scandal broke out in September after powdered milk, tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, sickened thousands of Chinese infants. Melamine-tainted milk has been blamed for the death of six babies in China.

The milk scandal followed reports of food poisoning in Japan, linked to China's food exports.

The resulting outrage forced the government to review the country's food production practices and consider measures to improve food safety standards.

From the December 22, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash