Taking a tougher stance on food safety

08:22, October 12, 2010      

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Some quality inspection bureaus at the county-level are ill-equipped and lacking in the talent needed to do their job, an official at China's food safety watchdog acknowledged on Monday, while promising that spending on local bureaus would be increased over the next five years.

Zhi Shuping, minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said the government will come up with polices to improve spending on county-level bureaus in under-developed regions as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).

In pointing to a recent study that showed that the work of local quality supervision bureaus was less than satisfactory, Zhi explained that investigators had been sent to Hunan and Yunnan provinces where they found that some people in charge did not have the professional knowledge or equipment for proper food safety inspections.

On Monday, AQSIQ announced that it is establishing a science and technology committee to advise the administration on national policies and standards to protect against unsafe food and consumer products.

The committee will consist of a panel of prominent academics, including the father of hybrid rice, Yuan Longping, and Tsinghua University's president, Gu Binglin.

"We will take a firm stand on unsafe or counterfeit products and will use our scientific knowledge in the fight," Zhi said.

Sang Liwei, a Beijing food-safety lawyer and representative of a nonprofit organization, the Global Food Safety Forum, said that such a committee was badly needed: "This is an obviously correct and wise action, especially for food quality supervision, something the public care most about."

Food safety and product quality are now a nationwide concern in view of the number of incidents that have taken place recently, such as the melamine-tainted baby formula that caused the death of at least six infants in 2008.

An August survey by the China Association for Quality found that about 30 percent of the people are not satisfied with the quality of milk products.

Part of the blame for these food-safety incidents has fallen on local inspectors, who are thought to be remiss in their duties and in command of inferior facilities in less-developed areas.

"This news about the ministry helping with local quality inspections in less-developed areas is good," Sang said.

"I hope the additional funding to improve testing standards will be closely monitored to prevent any abuse."

By Qiu Bo, China Daily


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