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'Major ills' at heart of food scandals

OVERLAP among different government departments and lax supervision were blamed as "major ills" for the country's repeated food safety scandals, a political advisor said yesterday.

"A spate of incidents including poisonous rice and infant formula scandal in recent years have brought food safety into the spotlight," Yan Huiying, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said in Beijing at a plenary meeting of the top political advisory body.

According to Yan, there was a popular saying among the public: "We are afraid of hormones when eating meat, poison when eating vegetables and dye when drinking a beverage. Actually, we are not sure what to eat now."

China's top legislature approved the Food Safety Law last month, providing a legal basis for the government to strengthen food safety control "from the production line to the dining table."

The law goes into effect on June 1 this year. It states that the State Council, or Cabinet, will set up a state-level food safety commission to oversee the entire food monitoring system to improve efficiency.

"If the commission is only a high-level institution to coordinate issues concerning different departments, it will be difficult to address problems from the root," Yan said.

The food safety system now involves at least five departments - health, agriculture, quality supervision, industry and commerce administration, as well as food and drug supervision - resulting in overlap or loopholes in administration.

Yan proposed to endow the commission with supervisory power over each of the departments. She also proposed imposing severe penalties on government officials and employees at monitoring agencies found guilty of dereliction of duty, graft or abuse of power.


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