The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it is to intensify scrutiny of the production and sale of seven kinds of food products including grain, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk products and aquatic products.
The campaign, jointly conducted by the departments of agriculture, commerce, public health and public security, is to phase out illegal and unlicensed businesses engaged in the production or supply of these products.
It also aims to ensure that the use of farm chemicals and food additives harmful to people's health is stopped.
Under such intensive checks, safety and quality of these products, which are closely related to people's daily lives, should achieve evident improvement by the end of this year, pledged the food and drug watchdog.
The long-awaited action is both welcome and appreciated, especially at a time when food quality and safety problems are causing mounting public concern and rising numbers of complaints.
Reference to food safety may remind many of the poison rice incident of two years ago. Several hundred tons of rice mixed with industrial mineral oil to give it a white and shiny appearance were sold in Guangdong, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, resulting in serious illness and even deaths.
Although greater scrutiny on the part of the authorities and tougher punitive measures have made the number of incidents resulting in such dire consequences a rarity, China still has a long way to go to achieve a completely disciplined market.
Small businesses, which do not meet requirements in sanitation and other technical standards and do not hold production licences, constitute an ongoing threat to food safety, but have proven difficult to tackle.
Similar inspection programmes in the past led to the closure of illegal, small plants, but when the level of checks reduced they mushroomed again.
As a result sub-quality food has not been kept permanently out of the market.
To solve the problem once and for all, it is not loudly-drummed campaigns that are needed, but a concerted effort on the part of the authorities to institute a set of rules and regulations which are complied with.
Furthermore, intensive scrutiny should not be reserved only for special occasions and events, but be maintained all the time.
(China Daily July 31, 2003)