UN suggests China tighten food safety

China needs a more coherent food-safety system, with unified laws, one overarching watchdog and faster sharing of information, the United Nations said. The recommendation comes in the wake of a series of food- and product-safety scandals involving goods as diverse as milk powder, toys and pet food.


"For an effective food safety system there should be one overarching piece of food safety legislation that covers food safety from production through to consumption," said the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional adviser on food safety, Anthony Hazzard, "overseas governments and consumers have to be confident that when a product is certified as safe from China’s authorities, that it is safe," he added.


China recognises the need for a food safety overhaul, Reuters said, but the country’s vast size and complex web of government agencies and product quality watchdogs have long made maintaining food standards problematic. Inconsistent regulations, poor enforcement, weak rule of law, powerful local officials and businessmen have allowed illicit operations and practices to thrive with sometimes minimal and patchy scrutiny from central authorities, the report added.


In the latest case, thousands of Chinese children fell ill and at least four died from drinking melamine-contaminated milk formula, which has since been found in a series of drinks and foods and led to products being pulled from shops worldwide.


"We see that a disjointed system with dispersed authority between different ministries and agencies resulted in poor communication and maybe prolonged (the) outbreak with a late response," said Jorgen Schlundt, the WHOs food safety chief, referring to the melamine case.


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