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China gets stronger food, drug regulator

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-22 11:05

BEIJING - The China Food and Drug Administration started operation on Friday, marking a more powerful watchdog to address the country's accumulating food safety concerns.

The CFDA, headed by Zhang Yong, director of the food safety commission under the State Council, China's Cabinet, integrated the monitoring functions of other government organs and became a ministerial-level agency to improve food and drug safety.

The move came out of the country's renewed efforts to reduce bureaucracy and improve efficiency via a cabinet restructuring approved by the top legislature in China's just-concluded parliamentary session.

Chinese consumers have encountered a series of food safety scandals in recent years, including recycled cooking oil, tainted liquor, substandard yoghurt and harmful milk powder.

Prior to the restructuring, the previous State Food and Drug Administration was in charge of food safety in the catering industry, whereas the responsibilities of food safety supervision in the manufacturing process and market were assumed by the country's consumer quality watchdog and the industry and commerce administration, respectively.

Overlapping of supervision from different departments and some "blind spots" proved weak links in the food safety supervision system.

The new regulator, however, will be responsible for supervising the full process of food's production, circulation and consumption.

"The restructuring is a historic systematic innovation in the country's food safety administration," said Song Hualin, an associate professor of law with Nankai University.

The new regulator will better streamline administrative, technological and information resources, and that can make the supervision more effective, professional and transparent. The burden for lawful business operators will also be reduced, according to Song.

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