China must step up food safety reform, claims expert

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Food

China must continue to reform its food safety practices if it
is to maintain consumer confidence in its products, says a food
safety expert from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Tony Hazzard believes positive steps are being made by the country's authorities, but that more must be done to step up reforms. "It is encouraging that authorities are reviewing their practices,"​ he told AP-FoodTechnology.com. "However, there remains a great urgency forChinato continue its efforts to ensure it has an effective, coordinated and appropriately resourced food control management system in place." ​ China's growing presence within global food production and trade has seen increased public scrutiny over the country's food safety policies. As such, overcoming recent scares regarding contaminated food and ingredients will be vital for both producers and processors, if they wish to maintain consumer confidence in the industry. According to Hazzard, the problems in coordinating the country's food safety efforts stem from the lack of a centralised office to manage food safety issues. "Food control remains spread among a number of government departments and administrations and without effective coordination and cooperation, concerns about the farm-to-table safety of food may arise on occasion,"​ he said. Though the formation of a national State Food and Drug Administration has gone some way in rectifying the problem, Hazzard adds that it still has not fully solved issues over food safety. "There is, as is the case in many countries, the need to continue to strengthen coordination and cooperation efforts to ensure no gaps occur in protection of the safety of food from farm to table,"​ he adds. Following a recent number of high-profile food scares within both domestic and exported food production, Chinese authorities have recently had to face up to some criticism over their procedures. Just this week, authorities in Hong Kong announced they would be following the lead of its mainland counterparts in reviewing its food safety protocols. Regulations on fish, vegetable and fruit products will also be tightened. The new safety bill will impose controls on pesticide residues, along with requiring health certification on any products from the Chinese mainland that enter Hong Kong. Authorities in Shanghai have also enacted similar measures with the recent formation of a rapid response food testing system, designed to step up the tracking and prevention of harmful food and beverage products. They hope the measures will reduce the possibility of further threats to its food exports, after the US Department of Agriculture announced that the banned contaminant melamine had been found in Chinese pet food. The products were fed to hogs and chickens meant for human consumption. The news put EU processors on guard against potential contamination from ingredients sourced from the country. Regulators have began investigating whether the chemical made its way into Europe's food and feed supply chain from China. However, it is not just exported foods which have achieved bad press of late. On 9 April this year, hospital food reportedly contaminated with rat poison was served to 200 people, resulting in one fatality.

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, East Asia, China

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