Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations launched here on Wednesday a paper
on food safety in China,
giving recommendations on where the country could focus its energy in
making improvements in the food safety system.
The paper was released a day before
the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress' (NPC) review of a
draft law on food safety.
"Food safety systems are always a
work in progress, but there are certainly key areas where China can
focus for improvement," said Jorgen Schlundt,
director of the Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses
and Food borne Diseases, World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters.
In spite of the achievements in the
quality and safety of both exported foods and that for domestic consumption
in the country, the paper recognized that "the sheer scale of China's
food industry makes the task of aligning all Chinese food products with
international standards an ongoing and arduous one."
"Without considering food service
establishments, there are currently around 450,000 different enterprises
engaged in food production and processing in China. Of these, around 350,000
are small enterprises with less than 10 employees which have a collective
market share of less than 10 percent but present many of the greatest food
safety challenges," said the paper.
Drawing on the experience and
expertise of various UN agencies, the paper set out an in-depth analysis of
the food safety situation in China. It put forward proposals
for improving the system as the country moves forward in the fields of food
safety legislation, management, inspection and enforcement, trade
dimensions, monitoring and surveillance, communication and international
The paper highlighted key challenges
surrounding the need for a more modern food safety law and ambiguities over
management and supervisory responsibilities within the food safety system.
"There needs to be one food law
that governs all aspects of the food safety system, which moves from a
'command and control' approach to a risk-based regulatory approach where
industry is responsible for demonstrating compliance rather than regulators
having to prove non-compliance," said Anthony Hazzard,
a WHO expert on food safety.
Coordination is another focus.
"There remains a situation where
a relatively large number of agencies are involved in the area of food
safety with overlapping responsibilities but without any practical and
effective means of coordinating the development of policy of its
implementation," he said.
"A disjointed system with
dispersed authority between different ministries and agencies resulted in
poor communication and a prolonged outbreak with late response. A coherent
system covering the full farm-to-table food production continuum would most
likely have ensured quicker intervention," said Schlundt,
adding "a one-string system needs to be put in place."
The paper recommended an
"integrated model" be adopted in supervising food safety, where
agencies across the farm-to-table continuum are able to achieve effective
collaboration and coordination.
"In this case, the Ministry of
Health should be guaranteed more power and human resources to play its role
of a central coordinating agency," Hazzard
In China, the principal government
authorities that share responsibilities for food safety control include the
State Food and Drug Administration, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of
Agriculture, State Administration, State Administration for Quality
Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the State Administration of
Industry and Commerce, and the Ministry of Commerce.