Food safety in China is a growing concern relating to agriculture. China's principal crops are rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton in addition to apples and other fruits and vegetables. China's principal livestock products include pork, beef, dairy, and eggs. The Chinese government oversees agricultural production as well as the manufacture of food packaging, containers, chemical additives, drug production, and business regulation. In recent years, the Chinese government attempted to consolidate food safety regulation with the creation of the State Food and Drug Administration of China in 2003; officials have also been under increasing public and international pressure to solve food safety problems. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang said, "Food is essential, and safety should be a top priority. Food safety is closely related to people's lives and health and economic development and social harmony," at a State Council meeting in Beijing.
The growing unrest over food safety in China reached a climax in early 2007, shortly after circulation to the State Council of an Asian Development Bank policy note based on a technical assistance project in collaboration with the State Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. The note and a subsequent report applauded increased efforts by the Chinese government but noted remaining gaps, calling in particular for urgent reforms to strengthen and streamline inter-agency coordination and enact an overarching "basic food law". The State Food and Drug Administration of China also published a survey in early 2007 where 65% of the respondents expressed concern about food safety. Shortly afterwards, Lu Jianzhong, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and China's Vice Premier, Wu Yi, issued statements of apology and promised to create a food safety monitoring system.
China's food regulations are complex, its monitoring system can be unresponsive, and the government departments that oversee and enforce policies have overlapping and often ambiguous duties. There are around ten national government departments that share the responsibility to ensure food safety. There are also numerous provincial and local agencies that monitor local food production and sales. The food and drug laws themselves have been created "in an ad hoc way without the benefit of a basic food law," as Henk Bekedam of the World Health Organization told the Wall Street Journal (9 April 2007, B1). The last major revision of the food and drug laws was made in 1995 when the Food Hygiene Law of the People's Republic of China established general food safety principles. Both the State Council and the departments under the State Council can issue regulations and directives concerning food.
Changes in China's food production system are generating an awareness of food safety problems. China's agricultural system is composed mostly of small land-holding farmers and subsistence agriculture. China, however, has less arable land than other nations and farmers intensively use fertilizer and pesticides to maintain high food production. Food is sold in both open air markets and urban supermarkets, and by the late 1990s, China's farms were adapting to more specialized crop production as the local markets become more connected to the national and international markets. However, local authorities largely control food regulation enforcement unless the central government steps in. As urban consumers' incomes increase, the demand for quality food goods, safer production, and processed foods also increases, and urban residents and supermarkets attract more national and media attention to food problems.
On July 10, 2007, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of State Food And Drug Administration, was executed by lethal injection for taking bribes from various firms in exchange for state licenses related to product safety.
Approximately ten government departments and ministries under the State Council monitor food safety in China. These include the Ministry of Health, the State Food and Drug Administration, and the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety.
No single agency is responsible for all food safety regulations and enforcement in China, and the departments' duties often overlap. There are also local and regional food safety agencies, but there is no clear hierarchy of agencies at the local or national levels. In response to complexity of numerous agencies monitoring and regulating food safety, the National People's Congress established the State Food and Drug Administration in 2003. The State Food and Drug Administration was supposed to oversee the all aspects of food safety regulations and unify food safety controls. However, the State Food and Drug Administration has not become the main governing department as the government had intended, and the other national agencies have continued to regulate and monitor food safety. This unclear division of duties has created conflict and confusion when citizens have sought to complain or when a major crisis needed to be resolved.
The National People's Congress (NPC) is primarily responsible for implementing food safety laws. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the State Council also regulate food safety issues. The Food Hygiene Law of 1995, passed by the NPC, amended the 1982 Food Hygiene Law and regulates most aspects of food safety.
Established in 1949, the Ministry of Health encompasses general health policies, health law enforcement, children's and seniors' health policies, and diseases and emergencies. It provides experts to investigate poisoning cases, enforces food safety and hygiene inspections, and can order local health departments to conduct investigations into food quality violations. The Ministry of Health also oversees the Institute of Food Safety Control and Inspection, an agency that has studied and identified unsafe foods and has helped local health authorities form policies and training programs to combat unsafe food production and handling practices. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has called the Ministry of Health "the most important governing body of food safety."
The general duties of the Ministry of Health are:
The State Food and Drug Administration of China (SFDA) was founded in 2003 as part of China's efforts to improve food safety. The SFDA is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the other health, food, and drug agencies. It is "directly under the State Council, which is in charge of comprehensive supervision on the safety management of food, health food and cosmetics and is the competent authority of drug regulation." The SFDA encompasses ten departments that regulate and oversee different aspects of food and drug law. These include the General Office Department of Planning and Finance, the Department of Policy and Regulations, the Department of Food Safety Coordination, the Department of Food Safety Supervision, the Department of Drug Registration, the Department of Medical Devices, the Department of Drug Safety and Inspection, the Department of Drug Market Compliance, the Department of Personnel and Education, and the Department of International Cooperation.
The general duties of the SFDA are:
The Ministry of Agriculture handles farm-level food safety regulations and policies. One of its most important duties is to regulate and enforce the use of chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides on farms. The Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals (CAMA) is responsible for pesticide testing, research, and use regulations, and operates under the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture is also responsible for animal health, and has handled the bird flu (avian influenza) outbreaks and the mad cow disease prevention measures. The Ministry of Agriculture works with local governments, operates disease research laboratories, and administers vaccinations and emergency response measures.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) oversees food imports and exports and quarantines at the national and local levels. It functions as a law enforcement agency. There are 19 departments under the GAQSIQ, and the ones that handle food safety issue are the Department of Supervision on Animal and Plant Quarantine, the Bureau of Import and Export Food Safety, and the Department of Supervision of Food Production. The GAQSIQ was made a Ministry in 2001.
The State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) regulates market activity and is directly under the State Council. Under the SAIC, the Consumer Protection Bureau enforces standards for market products and investigates fake products, the Enterprise Registration Bureau issues business licenses, the Department of Personnel and Education oversees local SAIC departments, and the Department of Advertising Regulation works against fake or misleading advertising.
The Mission of the SAIC is as follows:
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) investigates technological innovation to improve food production, manufacturing, and processing. The MST regulates the quality of market products, oversees the inspection of market products, and punishes sellers who violate product quality standards. The MST also regulates product packaging and can confiscate or destroy illegal products or product ingredients.
The National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety (NINFS) is a research agency for nutrition and food hygiene. It is affiliated with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The objectives of the Institute are to study the health-related nutrition and food hygiene problems and to train nutrition and food hygiene specialists. These objectives have been established for the purposes of improving nutritional status, preventing food borne diseases, and strengthening the physical fitness of the people. The Institute not only undertakes basic research and field studies, but also organizes and conducts nationwide research programs. In addition, the Institute gives advice on the nutrition and food hygiene projects of the health units at the provincial level. The Institute comprises 13 departments, including Elderly Nutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Community Nutrition, School Nutrition, Food Chemistry, and Food Toxicology. The Institute has been authorized to award doctoral and master's degrees in the field of nutrition and food hygiene. Since 1981, the Institute has been designated as the FAO/WHO Collaborative Center for Food Contamination Monitoring in China. The office of the Chinese Nutrition Society is also located in the Institute building. The Institute was formerly known as the Nutrition Division of the National Institute of Health of the Public Health Administration, which was established in 1941. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Institute was affiliated with the following leading bodies under the title of the Department of Nutrition or the Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene:
In October 2007, China approved new legislation aimed at improving and monitoring national standards in food production. New laws will standardize food production and clamp down on illegal activity in the industry. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine drafted the new regulations covering the production, processing and sale of food. They will create national standards and replace the existing patchwork of rules which are overseen by several government agencies.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) has received increased international media scrutiny following the reform and opening of the country, its joining the World Trade Organization, and the increased awareness of Chinese people in urban areas to food safety. There have been numerous incidents involving food safety in the PRC including the unconventional use of pesticides or other dangerous chemical additives as food preservatives or additives and the use of unhygienic starting materials as food ingredients. The 2008 Chinese milk scandal received the most attention among food safety incidents.
The Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE, Chinese: 中国工程院; pinyin: Zhōngguó Gōngchéng Yuàn) is the national academy of the People's Republic of China for engineering. It was established in 1994 and is an institution of the State Council of China. The CAE and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are often referred to together as the "Two Academies". Its current president is Li Xiaohong.
Since the establishment of CAE, entrusted by the relevant ministries and commissions, the Academy has offered consultancy to the State on major programs, planning, guidelines, and policies. With the incitation by various ministries of the central government as well as local governments, the Academy has organized its members to make surveys on the forefront, and to put forward strategic opinions and proposals. These entrusted projects have played an important role in maximizing the participation of the members in the macro decision-making of the State. In the meantime, the members, based on their own experiences and perspectives accumulated in a long term and in combination with international trends of the development of engineering science and technology, have regularly and actively put forward their opinions and suggestions.Clenbuterol
Clenbuterol is a sympathomimetic amine used by sufferers of breathing disorders as a decongestant and bronchodilator. People with chronic breathing disorders such as asthma use this as a bronchodilator to make breathing easier. It is most commonly available as the hydrochloride salt, clenbuterol hydrochloride.It was patented in 1967 and came into medical use in 1977.Commission on Food Safety
The Commission on Food Safety of the State Council (Chinese: 国务院食品安全委员会; pinyin: Guówùyuàn Shípǐn Ānquán Weǐyuánhuì) is a policy coordination committee with ultimate oversight on food safety in China. As it is an ad-hoc coordination body it should not be confused with the established commissions and ministries which report into the State Council. The Commission is headed by the Vice-Premier of the State Council, Zhang Gaoli, who is also a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The Commission was established in 2010 after a series of food safety incidents reduced the trust of the Chinese public as well as importers of Chinese made food outside of China. For example, the 2008 baby milk powder scandal caused major international controversy. The Commission was initially headed by Li Keqiang, then the top-ranked Vice-Premier of the State Council and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, who was assisted by two deputies, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Vice Premier Hui Liangyu. In 2013, Li Keqiang handed leadership of the group to Zhang Gaoli.
The membership of the group consists mostly of vice-ministerial level officials.Emily Ying Yang Chan
Emily Ying Yang Chan is the Assistant Dean (Global Engagement) and Professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine, Associate Director (External Affairs and Collaboration) at the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, Director at the Centre for Global Health (CGH), Director of the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC), Director of the Centre of Excellence (ICoE-CCOUC) of Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), Visiting Professor of Public Health Medicine at the Oxford University Nuffield Department of Medicine, Visiting Scholar at Harvard University FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Senior Fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Honorary Professor at University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, and Fellow at Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.Food safety incidents in China
Food safety incidents in China have received increased international media scrutiny following the reform and opening of the country, and its joining the World Trade Organization. Urban areas have become more aware of food safety as their incomes rise. Food safety agencies in China have overlapping duties. The 2008 Chinese milk scandal received the most attention among food safety incidents.General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国国家质量监督检验检疫总局, abbreviated AQSIQ) is a ministerial-level department under the State Council of the People's Republic of China that is in charge of national quality, metrology, entry-exit commodity inspection, entry-exit health quarantine, entry-exit animal and plant quarantine, import-export food safety, certification and accreditation, standardization, as well as administrative law enforcement.
AQSIQ directly administers provincial Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureaus and Bureaus of Quality and Technical Supervision. For example, the Beijing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau is responsible for collecting health declaration forms, and used thermal imaging to spot passengers with fever due to the 2009 flu pandemic prior to July 16, 2009.In 2018, the AQSIQ was merged with the newly-created State Administration for Market Regulation.National Medical Products Administration
The National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) (Chinese: 国家药品监督管理局) (formerly the China Food and Drug Administration, or CFDA) was founded on the basis of the former State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA). In March 2013, the former regulatory body was rebranded and restructured as the China Food and Drug Administration, elevating it to a ministerial-level agency. In 2018, as part of China's 2018 government administration overhaul, the name was changed to 'National Medical Products Administration' and merged into the newly-created State Administration for Market Regulation. The headquarters are in Xicheng District, Beijing.In its first incarnation as the CFDA, the NMPA replaced a large group of overlapping regulators with an entity similar to the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, streamlining regulation processes for food and drug safety. The National Medical Products Administration is directly under the State Council of the People's Republic of China, which is in charge of comprehensive supervision on the safety management of food, health food and cosmetics and is the competent authority of drug regulation in mainland China.On 10 July 2007, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's State Food And Drug Administration, was executed for taking bribes from various firms in exchange for state licences related to product safety.Organic food
Organic food is food produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in the farming methods used to produce such products. Organic foods typically are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.In the 21st century, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification to market their food as organic. Although the produce of kitchen gardens may actually be organic, selling food with an organic label is regulated by governmental food safety authorities, such as the National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) or European Commission (EC).From an environmental perspective, fertilizing, overproduction, and the use of pesticides in conventional farming may negatively affect ecosystems, biodiversity, groundwater, and drinking water supplies. These environmental and health issues are intended to be minimized or avoided in organic farming. However, the outcome of farming organically may not produce such benefits because organic agriculture has higher production costs and lower yields, higher labor costs, and higher consumer prices.
Demand for organic foods is primarily driven by consumer concerns for personal health and the environment. From the perspective of science and consumers, there is insufficient evidence in the scientific and medical literature to support claims that organic food is either safer or healthier to eat than conventional food. While there may be some differences in the nutrient and antinutrient contents of organically and conventionally produced food, the variable nature of food production, shipping, storage, and handling makes it difficult to generalize results. Claims that "organic food tastes better" are generally not supported by tests.Pollution in China
Pollution in China is one aspect of the broader topic of environmental issues in China. Various forms of pollution have increased as China has industrialised, which has caused widespread environmental health problems.China will either shut down or curtail operations at dozens of steel plants from November 2017, over the next five months under an aggressive action plan to reduce winter pollution in Beijing and its surrounding areas.Protein adulteration in China
In the People's Republic of China, the adulteration and contamination of several food and feed ingredients with inexpensive melamine and other compounds, such as cyanuric acid, ammeline and ammelide, are common practice. These adulterants can be used to inflate the apparent protein content of products, so that inexpensive ingredients can pass for more expensive, concentrated proteins. Melamine by itself has not been thought to be very toxic to animals or humans except possibly in very high concentrations, but the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid has been implicated in kidney failure. Reports that cyanuric acid may be an independently and potentially widely used adulterant in China have heightened concerns for both animal and human health.Chinese protein export contamination was first identified after the wide recall of many brands of cat and dog food starting in March 2007 (the 2007 pet food recalls). The recalls in North America, Europe and South Africa came in response to reports of kidney failure in pets. Several Chinese companies sold products claimed to be wheat gluten, rice protein or corn gluten, but which proved to be wheat flour adulterated with melamine, cyanuric acid, and other contaminants. The Chinese government was slow to respond, denying that vegetable protein was exported from China and refusing to allow foreign food safety investigators to enter the country. Ultimately, the Chinese government acknowledged that contamination had occurred and arrested the managers of two protein manufacturers identified so far and took other measures to improve food safety and product quality.Reports of widespread adulteration of Chinese animal feed with melamine have raised the issue of melamine contamination in the human food supply both in China and abroad. On 27 April 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) subjected all vegetable proteins imported from China, intended for human or animal consumption, to detention without physical examination, including: wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten meal, corn by-products, soy protein, soy gluten, proteins (includes amino acids and protein hydrolysates), and mung bean protein. In a teleconference with reporters on 1 May, officials from the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture said that between 2.5 and 3 million people in the United States had consumed chickens that had consumed feed containing contaminated vegetable protein from China. Reports that melamine has been added as a binder in animal feed manufactured in North America also raise the possibility that harmful melamine contamination might not be limited to China.In September 2008, Sanlu Group had to recall baby formula because it was contaminated with melamine. Around 294,000 babies in
China became ill after drinking the milk; at least six babies died.As of July 2010, Chinese authorities were still reporting some seizures of melamine-contaminated dairy product in some provinces, though it was unclear whether these new contaminations constituted wholly new adulterations or were the result of illegal reuse of material from the 2008 adulterations.QS mark
The QS mark (formally the Industrial Product Manufacturing License) is a Chinese quality and safety mark for food, beverages and other products. Introduced in 2003, it is managed by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The license is required for many product categories if they are both manufactured and sold in China.Sanlu Group
Sanlu Group CO., Ltd. (SJZSGCZ) was a state-owned Chinese dairy products company based in Xinhua District, Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei. It produced one of the oldest and most popular brands of infant formula in China. New Zealand's Fonterra owned 43% of Sanlu.
In September 2008, it was involved in an adulterated powdered milk scandal, affecting some 294,000 Chinese infants and killing six. Their infant formula had been adulterated with melamine, which can cause kidney stones and other complications. It received a bankruptcy order from Shijiazhuang Court on 24 December 2008, and several of its top managers were sentenced to long prison terms.Sanyuan Group
Sanyuan Group (Chinese: 三元集团; pinyin: Sānyuán Jítuán) is a state-owned group of companies based on agriculture and animal husbandry in China. It consists of 12 state farms, 20 professional companies, 41 transnational joint ventures, 3 overseas subsidiaries and 1 public company as Beijing Sanyuan Foods, which is listed in Shanghai Stock Exchange.Science and technology in China
Science and technology in China have developed rapidly during the 1990s to 2010s. The Chinese government has placed emphasis through funding, reform, and societal status on science and technology as a fundamental part of the socio-economic development of the country as well as for national prestige. China has made rapid advances in areas such as education, infrastructure, high-tech manufacturing, academic publishing, patents, and commercial applications and is now in some areas and by some measures a world leader. China is now increasingly targeting indigenous innovation and aims to reform remaining weaknesses.
Health in China
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Food safety in Asia
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