China's Xinhua News quotes Fang Aiqing, deputy director of the market circulation and adjustment department of the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), as saying that overall food safety in China is good, but problems such as insecticide residue on fruit and vegetables, and fake products still remain in a few areas.
To combat this, the MOC says it will cooperate with other ministries to establish the monitoring system. A network will collect and analyse data on food safety in slaughterhouses, wholesale and retail markets. This initiative illustrates how the Chinese government is actively encouraging information technology in a number of manufacturing sectors.
China has already passed over 200 laws, regulations or standards on food safety at national or regional levels, including two sets of new criteria on the wholesale and retail market of agricultural and related products. The government says that a further 500 measures on food processing and circulation are to be passed in the next five years. The latest initiative means that companies that maintain good records on food safety and hygiene will be highlighted, while those that do not will be publicised on the Internet.
The latest legislation helps to highlight the ongoing transformation of the Chinese economy. While the country is still largely agricultural, the move demonstrates the government's determination to make the food sector in China on a technological par with countries in the west.
Fang also says that the state wants to encourage traditional agricultural markets in cities to become chain supermarkets, a move that would have a profound effect on Chinese society. The government claims that although these markets continue to serve as the main retail place for food, they often have very poor health and safety standards.
Chinese food and livestock exports amounted to €11.3 billion worldwide in the first 10 months of this year. According to Chinese customs, the largest sectors were fish, vegetables, fruit and meat. The Chinese government believes that once trade limitations on Chinese exports - such as national bans on pesticide residue - are no longer a problem, the food export sector will record dramatic increases.
For years the country has been described as a sleeping economic giant. The last decade has seen many western companies invest heavily in what they claim is the world's largest uptapped market, believing that good opportunities for reciprocal trade are being put in place. This latest government initiative will do much to convince western companies that when it comes to food safety, China means business.