China forced to relaunch food safety crackdown
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang yesterday vowed the campaign would focus on the food processing, food additives and health supplements sectors, as well as livestock slaughter, food circulation and farm products, reported state media.
Li admitted serious problems remained with the country’s food safety system and that the situation was urgent.
Speaking at the first plenary session of the recently-formed food safety commission, he said: "We should understand the foundation for the country's food safety is still weak and the situation is grave. We should fully realize that it is a pressing issue to ensure food safety."
The re-launch of the food safety campaign was forced on Beijing after the further discovery of products contaminated with melamine surfaced in recent weeks. These are believed to have been repackaged for sale and put back on the market instead of being destroyed after the 2008 scandal, whereby milk powder laced with melamine killed six children and sickened an estimated 300,000.
The Vice Premier vowed to "thoroughly" investigate the latest milk scandal, destroy all tainted products and severely punish those responsible.
Chinese authorities announced earlier this week they had closed two dairies in the northern region of Ningxia following the discovery of a further 170 tonnes of tainted milk powder.
The situation is certain to be seen as an embarrassing setback for the government after the introduction of its new food safety law in summer 2009. This was accompanied by a string of other measures designed to show how seriously it was taking the issue - including the unveiling of better testing systems and a method to recall problem products, as well as placing more responsibility on food producers themselves to ensure their products were safe.
Yesterday, Li re-emphasised the need for food producers and sellers to act responsibly but also called on various government departments to strengthen oversight of businesses. He urged improvement in food safety standards and the food system production check-ups, risk evaluation, accident prevention and emergency response.
“Food is essential, and safety should be a top priority for food. Food safety is closely related to people's life and health and economic development and social harmony,” he said.