Food safety problems have become so alarming in Guangdong that one of the South China province's most renowned doctors chose to address the issue.
"If the safety problem of foods is not dealt with appropriately as soon as possible, a sizable proportion of our population will be unable to bear children within 50 years," said Zhong Nanshan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a deputy to the National People's Congress.
He made the comments at a session of the Guangzhou People's Congress last week.
Compared with figures of 40 years ago, the average sperm density of a Chinese male has decreased by nearly half, Professor Zhong said.
According to Zhong, the increased frequency of various diseases can be traced to food safety issues. These diseases include intestinal cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer.
Over-use of additives, preservatives and ripeners in food planting and processing have been cited as contributing factors.
Against alarming food problems, Guangdong Province is adopting new policies and standards, and legislation has been tabled to ensure foods are safe and hygienic.
According to a source at Guangdong Health Department, detailed policies will be put in place to regulate food safety soon.
The department is laying down different standards governing the use of additives to such foods as mineral water, moon cakes, cured meat and many more.
Next year the department will finish amending procedures for the monitoring of food hygiene, and it is expected to make an applicable law in 2006.
According to Guangzhou Quality and Technology Supervision Bureau, Guangzhou will launch a food safety project in the city and will input 148 million yuan (US$17.8 million) for the project.
The project will mainly focus on quality of meat and vegetable from production to market.
Jiang Chaoqiang, director at No 12 Hospital of Guangzhou, said Zhong has given a timely warning to all of Guangdong's residents and all relative departments, including health authorities, hospitals, and chemical institutions, have the obligation to make amends.
Jiang said foods manufactured by large companies are easier to monitor in line with the relevant law while the agricultural produce from private farms might easily escape control.
"The publicity department should organize lectures and other public activities to teach people how to protect themselves from polluted or poisonous foods," Jiang said.
Even though many consumers are concerned with food safety, they often find that they have no say at the receiving end of the food chain.
Zhong said that the State and local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to be granted more power to deal with the safety problems related to food and drugs and provide open access to the public.
(China Daily April 6, 2004)