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One-year campaign aims to make food in rural areas safer

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-10 09:00
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A farmer uses a shovel to separate grains of wheat from the husk in Zhangyao village of Erlang town in Xiping county, Central China's Henan province on May 26, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Food safety in rural areas across China is expected to improve after a special one-year law enforcement campaign launched last month that is targeting counterfeit and shoddy food, the country's top market regulator said on Monday.

The national campaign, launched by five central government departments, will focus on illegal activities such as adding nonedible substances during food production and selling counterfeit or substandard food or meat that has failed inspection, Yan Jun, chief of law enforcement and inspection at the State Administration for Market Regulation, said at a televised conference.

Law enforcement forces from different authorities, including market regulation and public security departments at various levels, will keep a close watch on venues where such offenses are more likely, including small food processors and sellers in rural areas and wholesale food markets catering to rural areas, he said.

Major tasks during the campaign will include cracking down on violations of laws, destroying food involved in such violations and meting out severe punishment to criminals to bolster deterrence, Yan said.

"Market regulation authorities at various levels must give harsh punishment to perpetrators according to law, including revoking their business permits, and transfer them to public security authorities if they are suspected of crimes," he said.

Xu Chenglei, an official handling food and drug crimes at the Ministry of Public Security, told the conference that food safety problems such as producing and selling counterfeit or substandard food occur more often in rural areas than in urban areas, with one of the reasons being weaker law enforcement.

The ministry will supervise the handling of major food safety crimes in rural areas over the next year to ensure effective law enforcement and will improve cooperation with other departments to fight new forms of crime such as selling counterfeit or shoddy goods to residents in rural areas via livestreaming promotions on e-commerce platforms, he said.

Food safety in China has, in general, been improving in recent years. Last year, 97.6 percent of food available on the domestic market met standards, 2.9 percentage points higher than in 2014, according to the State Administration for Market Regulation. Although there is no official data for food safety in rural areas, some experts said they are more at risk due to weaker law enforcement and a lack of awareness and knowledge among residents when it comes to identifying violations such as counterfeit food.

Huang Xiuzhu, from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs' department for agricultural product supervision, said food safety in rural areas has seen great improvement in recent years due to effective measures taken by various authorities, and crimes involving counterfeit or shoddy food have been effectively curbed. Continued efforts are needed to improve food safety in rural areas to ensure the health of residents, he said.

While carrying out the law enforcement campaign, the ministry will intensify food safety publicity and education for residents in rural areas so they have increased awareness of food safety and are better able to identify counterfeit goods, Huang said.

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