IV. Law Regime and Technological Guarantee System for Food Safety
1. Food Safety Law Regime Gradually Improved
China now has a complete law regime providing a sound foundation and good environment for guaranteeing food safety, improving food quality and regulating food imports and exports.
The specific laws in this regard include the Product Quality Law, Standardization Law, Metrology Law, Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, Law on the Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products, Criminal Law, Food Hygiene Law, Law on Import and Export Commodity Inspection, Law on Animal and Plant Entry and Exit Quarantine, Frontier Health and Quarantine Law and Law on Animal Disease Prevention.
The specific administrative regulations in this regard include the Special Regulations of the State Council on Strengthening Safety Supervision and Administration of Food and Other Products, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Administration of Production Licenses for Industrial Products, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Certification and Accreditation, Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Import and Export Commodity Inspection, Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Animal and Plant Entry and Exit Quarantine, Administrative Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Veterinary Medicine, Administrative Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Pesticides, Provisions of the People's Republic of China on Place of Origin of Export Goods, Regulations for the Implementation of the Standardization Law of the People's Republic of China, Measures for Investigating, Punishing and Banning Unlicensed Business Operations, Regulations on the Administration of Feedstuffs and Feed Additives, Administrative Regulations on the Safety of Genetically Modified Agricultural Organisms and Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Import and Export of Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora.
The specific departmental rules include the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Measures for the Administration of the Supervision of Quality and Safety of Food of Food Producing and Processing Enterprises (Trial), Measures for the Implementation of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China for the Administration of Production Licenses for Industrial Products, Measures for the Administration of Food Hygiene Licenses, Measures for the Hygiene Administration of Food Additives, Measures for the Administration of Inspection and Quarantine of Entry and Exit Meat Products, Measures for the Administration of Inspection and Quarantine of Entry and Exit of Aquatic Products, Measures for the Administration of Food Safety in the Circulation Sector, Measures for the Administration of the Safety of Places of Origin of Agricultural Products, Measures for the Administration of the Packaging and Marks of Agricultural Products and Regulations for the Administration of Hygiene Registration of Export Food Production Enterprises.
The Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China administers the country's food standardization work, while relevant departments under the State Council are in charge of specific food standardization work in respective sectors. The departments concerned are responsible for drafting different national standards for food safety, while the Standardization Administration initiates projects, examines them, marks the serial numbers, gives formal approval and promulgates them. Now, a food quality and safety standard system covering all categories, featuring a relatively rational structure and being fairly complete, has taken initial shape in China. Food safety standards cover the place of origin of agricultural products, quality of irrigation water, rules for the rational use of materials put into agriculture, rules and procedures for animal and plant quarantine, good agricultural practices (GAP), standards of maximum amount of pesticides, veterinary drugs, pollutants and spoilage organisms allowed in food, standards for food additives and their use, hygiene standards for food packaging materials, standards for special dietary food, standards for signs or labels on food packages, standards for the management and control of the safe production of food and standards for testing methods concerning food. These standards apply to edible agricultural products and processed food, such as grain, oil, fruit and vegetable, milk and dairy products, meat, poultry, eggs and related products, aquatic products, soft and alcoholic drinks, condiments and infant food; and cover each sector from food production, processing and distribution to final consumption. So far, China has promulgated over 1,800 national standards concerning food safety, and over 2,900 standards for the food industry, among which 634 national standards are compulsory.
To solve such problems as food safety standards overlapping each other and poorly organized, China has sorted out the over 1,800 national standards, over 2,500 industrial standards, over 7,000 local standards and over 140,000 enterprise standards, repealing more than 530 national and industrial standards. Meanwhile, it has speeded up the revision of over 2,460 national and industrial standards, issued over 200 new national standards, and worked out plans to enact over 280 national standards. It also works hard to promote and enforce these standards, and urges food producing enterprises to strictly abide by them.
The Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China is responsible for administering, supervising and coordinating certification and accreditation work throughout the country, putting in order the certification market and regulating certification activities. A pattern of uniform administration, standardized operation and common implementation for the certification and accreditation of food and agricultural products has come into being, basically establishing a certification and accreditation system covering the entire process "from the farming field to dining table." The certification categories include certification of feeds, GAP certification, certification of hazard-free agricultural products, certification of organic products, certification of food quality, certification of the HACCP management system, and certification of green markets. At present, China ranks among the top ten countries in the world in this regard, with 2.03 million hectares producing certificated organic products. The country has been experimenting with GAP certification geared to international standards in 286 export enterprises and agricultural standardization demonstration bases in 18 pilot provinces; 2,675 food producing enterprises have received HACCP certificates; 28,600 primary agricultural products have passed the certification tests for hazard-free agricultural products; and continuous progress is being made in the certification of feeds, alcoholic beverages by quality grade, and green markets. The government continuously strengthens its supervision of certificated products and enterprises, and increases the authoritativeness and effectiveness of certification.
4. Food Safety Inspection and Testing Framework Taken Initial Shape
Regarding the supervision of foodstuffs for the domestic market, China has established a number of qualified food inspection and testing institutions, bringing into initial being a food safety inspection and testing framework with "state-level inspection institutions playing the leading role, provincial- and ministerial-level food inspection institutions forming the main body, and city- and county-level food inspection institutions acting as supplement." With the improvement of their testing capability and level, these institutions can satisfy the demands for quality and safety tests throughout the entire process -- from the environment of place of origin, input materials, production and processing, storage and circulation to consumption, and can basically meet the requirements of national, industrial and relevant international standards for food safety parameters. China adopts the certification management that is in line with the international practice for food laboratories, and strengthens international mutual recognition, information sharing and joint tackling of key scientific and technological problems, ensuring the accuracy and fairness of test results. China has accredited the qualifications of some food inspection and testing institutions. Altogether, 3,913 food testing laboratories have passed the laboratory accreditation (similar to metrology certification) of China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) among which 48 are state-level quality inspection centers for foodstuffs and 35 are key food laboratories. The testing capability and level of these laboratories have reached a relatively advanced international standard. As regards the supervision of import and export foodstuffs, a technical support system ensuring food safety has taken shape, with the 35 state-level key laboratories playing the leading role. There are 163 inspection and quarantine laboratories for import and export foodstuffs throughout China, possessing more than 10,000 sets of large precision instruments of various types. Altogether, 1,189 professionals are directly engaged in the laboratory testing of import and export foodstuffs in these laboratories, with a rational age structure and allocation of staff according to their specialized fields. These laboratories can detect all kinds of food-borne pathogens and 786 safety or hygienic items, such as residue of pesticides and veterinary medicines, additives and heavy metals. By 2006, China had set up 323 state- and ministerial-level quality inspection centers and 1,780 provincial-, prefecture- and county-level testing institutions concerned with agricultural products. Thus, a quality and safety inspection and testing framework for agricultural products, with these institutions at different levels supplementing each other, has taken shape, providing technical support for strengthening the supervision of the quality and safety of agricultural products.