The government has an active role to play in guarding food safety, says an editorial in Beijing Youth Daily. The following is an excerpt:
Li Changjiang, chief of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said his administration will impose market access evaluations on licensing food producers, as part of its efforts to step up the administrative control of quality.
This new arrangement, of all the recent measures, indicates the government's determination to play an active part in ensuring food safety.
The central government and local governments at all levels have issued laws, regulations, policies and special campaigns relating to food safety in recent months.
The market access evaluation for producers is probably the most effective means to achieve this target in theory, but it is also the most doubted administrative tool.
The public is reluctant to support administrative controls on market access, as improper governmental intervention could affect the fledgling market economy.
Also, people tend to doubt whether licensed producers would stick to the rules after they passed their assessments.
Such concerns are not baseless. However, they only make it more urgent for the government to improve current codes and practical arrangements for market access assessment, rather than totally drop the assessment itself.
After all, the government is both responsible for and capable of fighting malpractice to ensure public health.
There is an opinion that full competition should be encouraged so producers with higher costs or inferior quality will be driven out automatically.
But while the idea works in theory, it could lead to physical harm to consumers before the rule of the market economy begins to weed out the bad apples.
Worse, the producers of inferior food might even beat their honest competitors in a market without effective supervision.
It is necessary for the government to identify unsuitable businesses before they are allowed into the market.
On top of that, the State should also devise a range of supervisory measures to watch the licensed producers. Public supervision is also needed to prevent the government officials from manipulating the assessment for their own benefit.
(China Daily August 14, 2007)