China ready to shore up
3/11/2008 6:57:00 AM
Source of Article: http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/china-ready-to-shore-up-food-safety/1349935.aspx
With his country facing yet
another international crisis over the safety of its food supply, Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao has
promised a tougher regulatory stance, saying Chinese exports will meet or
exceed international standards.
"The Chinese government attaches great
importance to food safety because it is not only in the interest of the
Chinese but also people in the world," Wen
said on October 18.
"In the future, our food safety criteria
will not only meet the international standard but that of the importer of our
products," he added during a press conference held in Beijing, China,
at the conclusion of a summit of government leaders from 45 European and
In recent weeks, authorities in a long list of
countries have found Chinese dairy products contaminated with excessive
levels of the industrial chemical melamine.
According to China's health ministry,
adulterated dairy products in domestic infant formula sickened tens of
thousand locally, hospitalizing more than 3,500 children and killing at least
In reaction, Chinese authorities closed dairy
plants, arrested officials, extended health care benefits to affected
citizens, stepped up testing and offered new subsidies to the dairy industry
to help it cope with the contamination.
Earlier, the government's General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine
established a new standard on melamine contamination and ordered the testing of
all milk products produced after mid-September.
The government in Beijing also promised to strengthen food
safety laws, explaining that the dairy products were adulterated with
melamine to artificially boost protein levels.
Other governments, particularly in Asia, reacted quickly, with many also boosting testing
of imported Chinese dairy ingredients. Some ordered outright import bans.
Then, on the same day Wen
promised the new crackdown, Hong Kong authorities said they would step up
testing of all egg, poultry, pork, beef, fish and vegetable products entering
the territory from mainland China.
The announcement followed the discovery of
eggs from China
that had excessive levels of melamine.
According to the Associated Press news
service, Hong Kong authorities found that eggs produced by China's Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group had melamine levels of 4.7 parts
per million, almost double the territory's legal limit.
The contamination may have been caused by feed
adulterated with melamine, government officials in Hong
Authorities in South Korea had made similar
The Agriculture Ministry in Seoul,
South Korea, said on
October 22 it found melamine contamination in five egg-based products
imported from China,
one of which was dried egg powder.
After these discoveries of contaminated eggs,
some observers in the region are worried that the problem might well have
originated in livestock rations.
That could lead to a much larger problem for China's
Wen told the Beijing
press conference that government officials also needed to share
responsibility for the recent melamine contamination.
"Not only relevant companies were
responsible for the scandal, but the government should also be held
responsible for lax supervision," Wen
He said those responsible would be punished.
He promised tougher enforcement of new food safety standards.
He promised that the government will advance a
new food safety law, which authorities have been drafting since at least last
It sets out what can and cannot go into food
products and establishes a tighter regulatory regime.
"We will gain the trust of the Chinese
and people in the world via our behaviors and quality of our products," Wen said.
On October 23, China's
National People's Congress resumed its review of the new draft food safety
law, government-controlled media in Beijing
According to the official Xinhua news agency,
the new law will set compulsory food safety standards and "ban all
chemicals and materials other than authorized additives" in food
products. Companies will be able to use only "safe and necessary"
ingredients approved by health authorities.
Companies that violate the law could be closed
and lose their operating license.
Food safety inspectors will not be able to
exempt some companies from complying with the new law as they have in the
past, the reports noted.
Inspections are supposed to be automatic as
soon as complaints are made.
"No organizations, institutions or
individuals should cover up, lie about or delay reporting food safety
incidents. Destroying evidence is strictly forbidden," the news agency
quoted the draft law as saying.
It is not clear when the new law and stringent
enforcement regime will be in place.
It is also unclear how the law will affect
imported agricultural products, although it seems only logical that they will
likely face a new, more stringent testing regime.