China has had its fair share of food safety issues over the past several years (remember the 300,000 kids sickened and at least 6 killed by melamine-tainted milk?), resulting in a global negative perception over the safety of Chinese-made food products.
In response to concerns over the safety of its food supply, it was announced that China would be strengthening its food safety system by, in part, adopting a new efficiency measurement system to assess the quality of supervision and inspections being conducted by local governments tasked with food safety oversight.
At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the China Association for Quality announced that they consider the adoption of such an assessment system to be their primary task in 2011.
The announcement said the country will also establish a means this year of reporting the results of quality analyses in a timely manner.
Speaking at a national conference in January, Zhi Shuping, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, became the first to propose the creation of a system to be used to assess the attempts of local governments and officials to ensure food safety and quality.
It is being reported in the media, however, that fewer than half of the 2,862 county quality inspections centers in China, which amount to about 1,100 centers, are capable of carrying out food safety inspection tests. A new food safety assessment system may thus be difficult to implement if over half of the centers lack the equipment necessary to conduct food safety testing.
Wu Jinsheng, director of the technology department with the administration, said in January that the government will spend enough to double in the next five years the number of counties that are capable of conducting food safety tests.
China’s announcement comes only two weeks after the latest food safety scandal to hit China became public. China Central Television reported that Jiyuan Shuanghui Food Co Ltd, an affiliate of the country’s largest meat processor, Shuanghui Group, had purchased pigs fed with clenbuterol, an illegal additive used to produce leaner pork, but which is poisonous to humans if ingested.
The report said tarnished meat was able to enter the market in part because local quarantine officials allowed pig farmers to choose which pork samples they would submit for testing.
Sang Liwei, a food safety lawyer in Beijing and a representative of the Global Food Safety Forum, a non-government organization, praised the punishments meted out to the responsible officials and said such actions effectively remind officials of their duties.