China President Insists on 'Strictest' Controls in Food Safety

CHINA - China's top leadership called for "the strictest" measures to ensure food safety despite improvements in recent years.
calendar icon 4 January 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

"Improving food safety concerns the health and life of more than 1.3 billion people in China, and we can never be too strict on the issue," President Xi Jinping said, according to a China Central Television report on Tuesday.

In recent years the Chinese government has made great efforts to improve food safety. While it has been constantly improving, many problems still exist, President Xi said.

President Xi urged authorities at all levels to adhere to "the strictest standards" for "the strictest supervision" of food safety, and imposition of punishment of greater severity for those guilty of endangering it.

China will also build a professional team of food safety inspectors and improve law enforcement capacity at the grassroots level to improve safety at every link, he said.

Premier Li Keqiang also urged local governments to give priority to ensuring safety of the food chain and improving supervision mechanisms. Improving safety should start at the source and irregularities must be severely punished, he said.

Zhang Gaoli, vice-premier and head of the Food Safety Commission of the State Council, China's Cabinet, said China's food safety situation is stable in general but at the same time still challenging and complex. Zhang spoke while hosting a meeting of the commission on Tuesday.

Mr Zhang urged authorities across China to adopt strict measures to fight irregularities, including improving legislation, such as considering application of criminal punishment in cases of food adulteration and fake food products.

Zhang also urged authorities to release the 13th Five-Year Plan for Food Safety (2016-20) and increase investment in safety supervision and law enforcement.

The integrity of food production systems has been a major concern for Chinese, in particular after a severe case of melamine adulteration in 2008, in which thousands of infants across China were sickened and four died after ingesting melamine-tainted infant formula made by Sanlu Group, a leading domestic dairy firm. Melamine, a chemical used in plastics, was used to make it appear products had more protein.

Food safety ranked at the top on a list of 10 safety issues that most worry Chinese, according to a survey released by Xiaokang magazine and Tsinghua University in July.

In January, the China Food and Drug Administration published a list of 35 catering companies that used opium, banned as a food additive, in their dishes. The list includes some famous chain restaurants.

China has seen improvements since it adopted its revised Food Safety Law in 2015. Tests showed 96.8 per cent of samples met standards in 2015, an increase of 2.1 percentage points compared with the previous year, according to a report by law enforcement teams dispatched by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature. The report was based on inspections in 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

The report also noted that food safety in China still faced major challenges, including lack of law enforcement capacity at grassroots levels caused by lack of equipment and talent. And many testing institutes in China lack adequate capacity in food inspection and testing.

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