Govt urged to strengthen food safety

Updated: 2011-05-18 09:56

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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Online support for grading of officials to help stop scandals

BEIJING - Most people in China expect governments at all levels to take more responsibility for ensuring their food is safe, according to a recent poll.

The survey conducted by China Youth Daily solicited the online opinions of 3,802 people.

Some 89.5 percent of respondents welcomed the fact that government officials will now be graded on how well they tackle the food safety issue.

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The response came after municipal governments in Beijing and Shanghai and provincial governments in Zhejiang and Guangdong announced on Saturday that the safety of local food will now be part of the evaluation of officials' work.

"I am very disappointed by these frequent scandals about food safety," said Sun Rong, a retired worker and mother from Qingdao, in East China's Shandong province.

"How can we avoid these illegal additives? We cannot grow vegetables or raise pigs by ourselves. It's absolutely the governments' duty to guarantee food safety."

Sang Liwei, a food-safety lawyer and the China representative of the NGO Global Food Safety Forum, agreed.

"The government plays the role of a father, supervising the children - the enterprises - at the market. When children do something wrong, the father must be blamed as well."

About 94 percent of respondents said food safety problems were related to passive enforcement, meaning the governments responded to violations only after they were exposed.

"Undefined accountability is an important reason for passive enforcement," said Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

About 13 ministries and departments have partial responsibility for food safety, according to an announcement released by the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform.

"Tying their record on food safety to their evaluations will be an effective way to motivate officials to supervise the food industry," Hu said. "Besides, enterprises that violate food safety laws should be punished more severely. A higher cost will be a deterrent."

Innovation of the supervision system was also called for.

Sang Liwei suggested that to improve analysis of the food industry, a new job of professional food safety surveyor should be developed in China.

These professionals could then assist governments and ensure they have the latest information about food safety violations, Sang said.


Govt urged to strengthen food safety


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