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Teeth for Food Standards
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China has re-examined all its food safety standards and abolished 208 national standards and 323 standards made by different industries, according to sources yesterday at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) and State Standardization Administration (SSA).

The message is that we will have unified and higher safety standards for almost all our food. By the end of last year, we had 1,965 national standards for food safety. Of these, 634 were compulsory. In addition, there were 2,892 standards established by various industries.

Food safety standards are vital to both the health of the public and the development of the food industry. The food we exported overseas was sometimes found as falling below the standards required by importing countries. This is not because the food itself was of low quality but because the standards we use may be lower.

It is becoming increasingly urgent to raise the food safety standards to international levels. GAQSIQ and SSA have apparently long realized the importance of this issue.

The two departments reduced the time limit from 12 years to four years for revising food safety standards. The goal would bring a complete overhaul by the end of the 11th Five-Year-Plan period (2006-10). They want food safety standards to be revised every two years by 2010.

This is good news for consumers. At the same time higher demands will be imposed on food producers. But the higher standards can hardly materialize without the cooperation of producers.

Creating higher standards is one thing. Enforcing those standards to the letter is another.

Food producers who lower costs by ignoring the required standards must be punished.

But higher food safety standards make sense only when government watchdogs have teeth and bite those who fail to follow the standards.

(China Daily July 4, 2007)

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