As FoodNavigator-Asia reported last week, the government is preparing plans to give the disjointed body more teeth by merging the existing 13 food and pharmaceutical watchdogs into one super-agency. This will serve as part of China’s plans to strengthen regulation and boost consumers’ confidence in the country’s food and drug products.
Overlapping of supervision from different departments and some supervision "blind spots" are weak links of the current food safety supervision system, according to a report delivered by State Councilor Ma Kai to the parliament's annual session.
In its place, a General Administration of Food and Drug has been proposed to merge the overlapping regulators to an entity along the lines of America’s FDA.
Bodies like the SFDA, the State Council’s Food Safety Office, and supervision duties from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) should be amalgamated into this ministry-level authority, Ma said in the report of the State Council report on institutional reform and transformation of government functions.
Existing staff and departments within the current regulators would be transferred into the new administration, he said.
Departments find new roles
China’s new national health and family planning commission will be responsible for assessing food safety risks and forming food safety standards, and the Agriculture Ministry is now responsible for the quality and safety supervision of farm produce. The Commerce Ministry's supervision responsibility of authorised pig slaughtering will be transferred to the Agriculture Ministry, he said.
China's current food safety system involves at least five departments and many more agencies. As a result of its disjointed nature, the respective bodies suffered from insufficient communication and coordination, along with low work efficiency and supervision loopholes.
"Departments of the State Council are now focusing too much on micro issues," Ma Kai said, noting that overlapping in government functions often leads to buck-passing among government departments. "We should attend to our duties, and we must not meddle in what is not in our business."