Food safety to protect consumers 2006-11-24 10:08:44

    BEIJING, Nov. 24 -- The long list of dangerous or problematic food items found in recent years is a slap in the face of food safety regulators.

    They have taken pains to conduct regular checks of the market, but the fact that it's still riddled with problems reminds us that they have not done enough to ensure consumer safety.

    Admittedly, regulators cannot guarantee all food items sold in the market are flawless, no matter how hard they work. But the great variety of problematic items from vegetables, cooking oil, milk powder, toothpaste, tea, bottled water, liquor, fast food one or two years ago, to today's turbot fish and red-yolk duck eggs indicates there is something wrong in the work of regulators and the system they work in.

    To be specific, the multiple regulatory bodies in the system have not co-operated well; their functions are not clearly defined and may conflict with each other or create a vacuum in the implementation of food safety rules.

    It is often the case that after the media uncovers problematic food items sold in the market, all departments concerned take action to stop sales and mete out punishments. But the public is curious as to where they were before the incidents.

    This is why we have pinned high hopes on the food recall system that is expected to come out soon and, at the same time, have some reservations about whether it would fare well.

    Legislators revealed the food safety law, which is in the pipeline, will stipulate a food recall system that requires producers to recall problematic food items.

    Such an arrangement will see dishonest producers pay a higher price as the recall process will increase their costs.

    The mandatory system will also enhance producers' awareness to care more about consumer interest.

    The National Development and Reform Commission said it would encourage the establishment of such a system among food enterprises.

    Legislators and regulators have come to realize the importance of self-regulation by enterprises, and both have acted in the right direction.

    Such a recall system, indeed, will help solve the problem from its roots.

    But thorough implementation remains crucial to its effectiveness. A good system will not work well until it is seriously carried out.

    With the system established, the law must stipulate, and the regulators must be made to know, the specific duty of each regulatory body in the different stages of food production, processing, packaging, circulation, sales and consumption, so that regulation takes place.

    Enterprises that fail to adopt the system must be punished so that it becomes fair for those law-abiding ones.

    We do need a good mechanism to protect consumers, but the more important task is serious implementation of the system in place.

    (Source: China Daily)

Editor: Yan Liang
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