A political advisor on Sunday blamed overlapping administration among different government departments and lax supervision as "major ills" for the repeated food safety scandals in China.
"A spate of incidents including poisonous rice and infant formula scandal in recent years have brought food safety into the spotlight," Yan Huiying, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said at a plenary meeting of the top political advisory body.
"People's concern on food safety rises with each passing day," said Yan, also chairwoman of the Triastoria Group.
According to Yan, there was a popular saying going among the public: "We are afraid of hormone when having meat, poison when having vegetables, dye when drinking beverage. Actually we are not sure what to eat now."
China's top legislature approved the Food Safety Law last month, providing a legal basis for the government to strengthen food safety control "from the production line to the dining table."
The law, which goes into effect on June 1, 2009, said the State Council, or Cabinet, would set up a state-level food safety commission to oversee the entire food monitoring system, whose lack of efficiency has long been blamed for repeated scandals.
"If the commission is only a high-level institution to coordinate issues concerning different departments, it will be difficult to address problems from the root," she said.
China's current food safety system involves at least five departments, including health, agriculture, quality supervision, industry and commerce administration, and food and drug supervision, resulting in overlapping or loopholes in administration.
Yan proposed to endow the commission with supervisory power on each of the departments and to impose severe penalties on government officials and staff of monitoring agencies who were found with dereliction of duties, graft or abuse of power.