Headline News


No room for laxity when it comes to food safety

Source: China Daily | 03-15-2007 08:45

Consumers could be forgiven for feeling jittery about the contents of their supermarket trolleys in China, just as restaurant diners are right to be wary of what's on their plates.

Despite repeated government pledges to "crack down" on food industry standards and inspections, safety scares continue to erupt one after the other.

Strawberries doused in pesticides, pork pumped with steroids, parasite-infested snails and contaminated fish have all made headlines recently. Sudan Red dye has turned up in chilli powder and spices. It's also been detected in the feed of hens and ducks to make their egg yolks red so they fetch higher prices. The industrial dye is used for leather, floor polish and other household chemicals. It's also carcinogenic, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and banned in the European Union.

Eighty-seven people were taken ill after eating raw or half-cooked snails in a Beijing restaurant last summer. The snails were contaminated with parasites.

Most recently, KFC outlets around the country were found to be reusing frying oil for up to 10 days a practice also feared carcinogenic adding magnesium trisilicate to prolong its life.

Ministry of health tests KFC´s frying oil. Full Story >>

KFC and other multinationals Nestle, Kraft, Heinz and Haagen-Dazs have all been under the food safety spotlight in China, accused of double standards when it comes to the quality of their products here compared with other countries.

Corruption, outdated food production technology and lax supervision are largely to blame. As is putting profits above public safety.

The industry is monitored by five government agencies provincial agriculture departments oversee farming; quality inspection bureaus deal with processing and packaging; industry and commerce departments keep tabs on the market; and public health departments monitor consumption. The State Food and Drug Administration is responsible for overall coordination and monitoring.

There are too many bureaus and departments involved, without the coordination to prevent loopholes and gaps. Effective supervision is needed; supervision that covers the entire production process, not just the end products. Penalties for breaches should be a deterrent.

Improving emergency responses as has been done in Beijing is a good step, but prevention is paramount.

A series of inspection campaigns began this year. New food safety rules will take effect on May 1. The supervision system will be upgraded and expanded, and inspectors will increase monitoring of fresh produce. These are all moves in the right direction.

Strict regulation, monitoring and testing to ensure food is free from harm is fundamental, as is enforcement.

Today is World Consumer Rights Day. This is not an area where corners can be cut food safety is a basic right.


Editor:Du Xiaodan