Public supports linking food safety with promotions

16:33, May 17, 2011      

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In the wake of a series of food safety scandals that have happened in China recently, a public survey shows that 95.4 percent of people think the "passive enforcement of law" in food safety supervision is the main cause, and 83.1 percent of people think dereliction of duty over food safety supervision should be severely punished.

The survey was jointly launched by China Youth Daily and two websites, and it involved 3,802 people from all walks of society. Of those respondents, 26.6 percent of them belong to the "post-1980s generation" and 37.7 percent of them belong to "post-1970s generation."

Recently, food safety incidents, including lean meat powder and tainted steamed buns, have triggered great debate in Chinese society since they revealed the severe lack of supervision and the fact that lots of food safety supervisors remain passive, only reacting to such accidents after they are exposed.

Regarding the urgent food safety problems and the public accusations, local governments in China have started to become more active on the issue.

Regions like Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang Province as well as Guangdong Province have put the food safety into the evaluation system for local government leaders. Jilin province set up a 24-hour-hotline for reporting relevant problems and hired 1,300 voluntary supervisors to investigate clues of food safety danger in social communities. Some other places like Jiangsu province, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia are popularizing the perniciousness of using food additives and how to prevent as well as punish such behaviors.

Most people think supervision dept. should take main responsibilities

With food safety issues being constantly exposed, more and more food has disappeared on Ms. Xue's shopping list. She wonders if "food safety can only be achieved by planting vegetables and feeding pigs ourselves?"

Xue also said "the government is responsible for securing the safety of food on sale and to protect citizens' health. The current terrible situation of food safety mostly has to do with relevant supervision departments."

According to the survey, 97.4 percent of respondents believe supervision departments should take responsibility over frequent food safety accidents, while 89.7 percent believes departments should take main responsibilities for that.

Mr. Wang, a Beijinger, cannot help asking "What do those supervision departments do? Why do they always come out when the accidents have been exposed? Why did the four supervision checkpoints act as if it were nothing when accidents like 'lean meat powder' happened? If it will always be like that, how can supervision departments be trusted by public?"

Not only Mr. Wang, but also 93.7 percent of the respondents said they cannot trust supervision departments any more.

Why do food safety accidents keep happening?

The newly-issued Amendment VIII to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China in February of this year says food safety supervisor who commit dereliction of duty have to take criminal responsibility for their wrongdoings.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also pointed out that food safety is a big affair related to public health and lives, therefore, supervisors have to keep their duty strictly to make sure public can have safe food to eat when he inspected Tianjin from April 29 to May 1 of this year.

Actually, China has been highly concerned over food safety. But why do food safety accidents keep happening and why is there "passive enforcement of law?"

Nearly 59 percent of correspondents think it is because those supervision departments do not have enough force and pressure since they are not under public supervision.

Other reasons also include corruption, failure to punish supervision departments after food safety accidents happen, the fact that supervision is made subservient to GDP growth and the lack of an influential channel for public reporting.

Wang Jingbo, a professor from China University of Political Science and Law, said one of the most important reasons is the incomplete accountability system in China.

Ruan Zanlin, the director of the domestic First Food and Medicine Supervision Research Center and a professor from the East China University of Science and Technology, believes that domestic construction of food safety standards lags behind and is incomplete, which brings opportunities for speculators. Also, the supervision team lacks specific talents to both manage the technology and conduct supervision.

In addition, 23.6 percent of respondents attribute the reason to an unclear designation of responsibilities between various supervision departments, which easily cause them to shift blame on each other.

Link food safety together with official promotion

In the survey, 89.5 percent of respondents support linking food safety together with official promotions, and veto by one vote if severe food safety incidents happen.

"Consumers' faith is more important than gold" Ruan Zanlin said. He believes the most urgent thing to do currently is to recover the consumer's faith in domestic food safety.

By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online
 
 
     
 
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(Editor:张心意)

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