Merged oversight key to food safety

Updated: 2014-08-04 07:32

By Xinhua (China Daily)

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Several Chinese cities are merging their various quality watchdogs to better ensure food safety, an issue that has seen several scandals in recent years.

Tianjin set up its Market and Quality Supervision Administration on Wednesday after merging three municipal government departments - the Industry and Commerce Administration, Quality and Technical Inspection and the Food and Drug Administration.

Tianjin's new combined market watchdog is the first provincial-level one of its kind in the country. Similar agencies have been established this year in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province; the Pudong New Area of Shanghai; and Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

The reform will not only facilitate trade and investment, but also improve the safety supervision of food and other commodities, said Lin Lijun, head of the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration.

Merged oversight key to food safety

Employees of the previous three government bodies will be integrated and specialized, Lin said.

Food safety is a major public concern in China. It involves different supervision departments, but the efficiency of such supervision is not ideal.

The most recent major scandal involving food safety began after a Shanghai TV station reported in late July that Shanghai Husi Food, a meat supplier owned by US-based OSI Group, mixed fresh and expired meat.

Under the new "three combined into one" model, the registration of a company will be more convenient, and the divided inspection mechanism will be improved, said Ma Yunze, a professor in industry development at Tianjin-based Nankai University.

"We will set up market and quality supervision bodies at township or street levels and merge the grassroots law enforcement teams to strengthen food and drug safety administration," said Wang Haifu, head of the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration.

Sun Tao, another researcher at Nankai University, said food and drug supervision is highly professional, so the operation of integrated inspection forces needs careful research to ensure specialization.

China's new leadership has vowed to deepen reforms in various sectors, including government administration. The effect of local pilot reforms in food safety inspection has yet to be seen.