Food safety high on agenda

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-18 08:28

China issued its first White Paper on food safety on Friday, and on the same day Vice-Premier Wu Yi was named as the head of a 19-member Cabinet-level panel to oversee product quality and food safety.

The 39-page White Paper, released by the State Council Information Office, details a series of achievements and planned measures to improve food quality, from establishing a national food recall system to increasing exchanges with quality officials from other countries.

The paper said the proportion of Chinese food products that passed quality inspections had risen steadily in recent years, from 77.9 percent last year to the current figure of 85.1 percent.

The paper also said the qualification rate of exported Chinese food had remained higher than 99 percent for many years.

It said China exported 24 million tons of food to more than 200 countries last year, up 13 percent over the same period the previous year. Seafood, vegetables and canned goods were among the most popular products, while Japan, the United States and South Korea were the top three importers.

Also on Friday, the government published a statement on its website, saying it had appointed Vice-Premier Wu to head a panel on food safety and product quality.

The decision to set up such a panel was made on July 25 at a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The statement said the panel is made up of 19 high-ranking officials from 16 central government departments, including Health Minister Chen Zhu, Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai, and Li Changjiang, head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Wu will lead the panel in coordinating ways to address the country's problems in food safety and product quality and oversee the implementation of policies.

Also as part of the government's efforts to improve product quality, the AQSIQ said on Friday it has sent 150 officials, one-third of its total staff, to 14 provinces on a three-month inspection of production in enterprises.

"It's the first time that the administration has sent so many officials, Li said.

He said the officials have been briefed to find production and supervision loopholes as well as solutions.

Luo Yunbo, dean of the food science and nutritional engineering school of China Agricultural University, said the latest moves underscored the government's determination to improve product quality after a spate of safety scares.

The quality of Chinese products, especially food, have been in the international spotlight in recent months following additives exported from China contaminated some pet food in North America.

The foreign media has also reported that toothpaste, seafood, toys, and even cooking pots from China were found to be unsafe, fanning global criticism of Chinese products in general.

"As a responsible country, China should show the public, as well the world, a true and complete picture of the food safety situation in the country," Luo said.

Xinhua contributed to the story

(China Daily 08/18/2007 page1)

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