China / Society

Merging of local quality watchogs piloted for food safety

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-08-03 12:36

BEIJING - Several Chinese cities have piloted the merging of quality watchdogs to ensure food safety, which has been troubled by scandals in recent years, with the latest meat tainting of a Shanghai subsidiary of a US company.

Tianjin Municipality in north China set up the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration last Wednesday, after merging three municipal government departments -- the industry and commerce administration, quality and technical inspection as well as the food and drug administration.

The new combined market watchdog of Tianjin is the first provincial level one of its kind in the country. Similar bodies have been established in Zhoushan City in east China's Zhejiang Province, Pudong New Area in Shanghai and Shenzhen City in south China's Guangdong Province this year.

The reform will not only facilitate trade and investment, but also further improve the safety supervision of food and other commodities, said Lin Lijun, head of the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration.

Staff of the previous three government bodies will be integrated and specialized, according to Lin.

Food safety is one of big public concerns in China. It involves different supervision departments, but the efficiency and efficacy of such supervision is not ideal. The system is often compared to "rain being allocated by nine dragons," a mythical creature assigned to produce rain.

The investigation into the recent Shanghai scandal was launched after a local TV station reported in late July that Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd, a meat supplier owned by US-based OSI Group, mixed fresh and expired meat.

Under the new "three combined into one" model, the registration of a company will be more convenient and the divided inspection mechanism will be improved, said Ma Yunze, a professor in industry development at Tianjin-based Nankai University.

"We will set up market and quality supervision bodies at township or street levels and merge the grass-roots law enforcement teams to strengthen food and drug safety administration," said Wang Haifu, Communist Party chief of the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration.

Sun Tao, another researcher at Nankai University, said food and drug supervision is highly professionalised and thus the operation of integrated inspection forces needs careful research to ensure specialization.

The Chinese new leadership has vowed to deepen reforms in various sectors, including government administration. The effect of local piloted reforms in food safety inspection has yet to bee seen.

In Shanghai, the Pudong New Area Market Supervision Administration was officially inaugurated on Jan.1. It has proved effective in strengthening law enforcement, said Chen Yanfeng, head of the administration.

The Shanghai municipal government has decided to promote the reform in its eight downtown districts. Pricing administration will also be added to the future reform.

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