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China to elevate food, drug agency to general administration

English.news.cn   2013-03-10 08:07:48            

Photo taken on March 10, 2013 shows the entrance to the State Administration of Food and Drug in Beijing, capital of China. China plans to elevate the status of the existing State Administration of Food and Drug to a general administration in order to improve food and drug safety, according to a report delivered to the annual session of the country's top legislature on Sunday. (Xinhua/Chen Yehua)

BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- China plans to elevate the status of the existing State Food and Drug Administration to a general administration in order to strengthen regulation and boost people's confidence in the country's food and drug products, a top official said Sunday.

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.

The proposed ministry-level General Administration of Food and Drug will replace a large group of overlapping regulators with an entity similar to the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.

It will combine the functions of the existing State Council's Food Safety Office, the State Food and Drug Administration as well as the food supervision duties from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), Ma said.

The general administration will be responsible for supervising food and drug safety in the process of production, circulation and consumption, Ma said in the report on the State Council institutional reform and transformation of government functions.

Staff and departments of the SAIC and AQSIQ concerning food quality supervision will be transferred to the new general administration, he said.

The country's new national health and family planning commission will be responsible for assessing food safety risks and forming food safety standards. The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for the quality and safety supervision of the farm produce, he said.

The Commerce Ministry's supervision responsibility of authorized pig slaughtering will be transferred to the Agriculture Ministry, he said.

The establishment of a powerful food and drug safety watchdog might be a good news for people like Liang Lijuan. Liang, 45, suffered from food poisoning after dining at a hotel in Yichun City, Jiangxi Province, last August.

She filed complaints to the municipal industry and commerce bureau but was told to complain to the health supervision department, where she was again told to return to the industry and commerce bureau.

China's current food safety system involves at least five departments, including health, agriculture, quality supervision, industry and commerce administration, and food and drug supervision. Insufficient communication and coordination among those agencies often resulted in low work efficiency and supervision loopholes.

A string of food safety scandals, particularly the one in 2008 when the melamine-tainted baby formula caused the deaths of at least six infants and sickened 300,000 others, have crippled customer confidence.

"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."

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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