Chen Xiaohong, Vice Minister of Health, said his department was working with a range of government agencies to come up with the standards following the implementation of the Food Safety Law on June 1, 2009.
The detailed new code would spell out acceptable levels of pathogenic microorganisms, food additives, heavy metals and other pollutants in food products, he told the Food and Drug Safety forum at the weekend. Other priorities would include allowable levels for pesticide and microorganism residues.
Chen declared the new structure would integrate existing standards, lay down new ones in areas where regulation had been lacking and abolish rules that overlapped or contradicted each other.
The government was open to suggestions from both the international community and domestic experts, said the vice minister as he promised transparency in formulating the new system.
The scheme is just one of a raft of initiatives to bolster China’s food safety system in the wake of a string of contamination scandals culminating in last year’s crisis when melamine-tainted products killed seven and sickened hundreds of thousands. The new law aims to establish an effective food safety co-ordination mechanism, new standards on reporting food safety incidents as well as food safety risk monitoring and assessment systems.
Chen also urges food and drug companies to play their part in acting responsibly.
"Food and drug safety has a direct bearing on people's health and also sustains the sound development of the whole industry,” he said. “It also reflects the credibility and social responsibility of an individual enterprise. Experiences have shown that an enterprise can generate more economic returns when putting people's health above anything else."
At the same event, the government’s Ministry of Commerce promised to provide training on quality and safety standards in key markets abroad in a bid to ensure the safety of China’s food exports.
Assistant Minister Lu Jianhua said it would keep domestic processing firms informed of changes in international food safety rules and compile handbooks for the most import export destinations. Officials also tabled proposals to boost systems for tracing food exports, help companies recall tainted products and provide compensation for any losses.