BEIJING - A Chinese official has vowed to take every possible measure to ensure food safety in the country, saying the government has decided to launch national overhauls this year on sectors including milk products, cooking oil, health foods, meat and alcohol.
Zhang Yong, director of the executive office of the food safety commission under the State Council, or Cabinet, said in an interview with Xinhua that the food and drinks in these five sectors are consumed in enormous quantities each day and they will do great harm and have an extensive social impact if a problem arises.
Through special campaigns to overhaul these five sectors and by solving the most prominent problems, the government aims to accumulate experiences and create administrative systems in a bid to prevent food safety incidents and raise the overall level of food safety, Zhang said.
The central government initiated a prolonged and stringent fight against the illegal use of additives in food last month, detailing measures to intensify supervision, upgrade safety limits, and increase penalties for violators.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang warned of the great harm from illegal additives in food at a high-profile national meeting last month, promising a "firm attitude, iron-hand measures and more efforts" in dealing with the problem.
Zhang Yong admitted "China is in a period when food safety incidents are likely to arise" since the country's food industry is on a fast track for development and a large number of food producers and catering operators are running their businesses in a small-scale or scattered way.
"It makes it more difficult for the government departments to conduct supervision on food quality and safety," Zhang said.
"We will take every possible measure to consolidate the feeble foundation to ensure food safety and curb food safety incidents as soon as possible," he said.
According to Zhang, the government will also make efforts to improve supervision and emergency handling capabilities, raise the credibility and personnel quality of the involved enterprises, and severely punish violators.
The Chinese government made the moves after a series of food safety scandals emerged despite the authorities' efforts to revamp the country's food industry. They included steamed buns dyed with unidentified chemicals, the use of "lean meat powder", also known as clenbuterol, a kind of fat-burning drug, as well as the use of illegal cooking oil known as "gutter oil."