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Food Safety Network in The Pipeline
A national food testing network will be set up by 2005 to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply, sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday.

According to the blueprint, the government is planning to build two or three national food safety centers, which are required to meet the standards of an advanced international laboratory.

Meanwhile, about 450 national testing laboratories for food safety are going to be constructed and included in the network.

Among them, about 40 will be chosen to join in testing with international laboratories.

The ministry revealed a blueprint that will require an investment of about 150 million yuan (US$18 million). The new system is also believed to be well suited to handle the constantly evolving challenges brought on by China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Li Xueyong, vice-minister of science and technology, said his ministry will play a bigger role in providing advanced and quick food testing methods in the future.

"Science and technology is at the heart of decision making in food inspection," said Li.

However, China lags developed countries in contamination detection equipment, testing data gathering and saving and the regulation of safety standards, Li said.

By 2005, a national task force with about 600 advanced food safety researchers will be set up.

Deng Nan, the ministry's other vice-minister who was authorized to superintend the application of science in food safety, said the action plan will also prevent harmful food from entering China.

"First, we should have advanced means to detect tainted food from other economies, and second, in line with WTO rules, our safety standards will be set up soon," Deng said.

Co-operating with food safety experts and quality inspection, public health and agricultural authorities, Deng's ministry will suggest about 500 food safety indices in the next two or three years.

Officials with the Ministry of Health admitted that food safety is a problem that the government should not neglect.

"The government should take a package of measures to ensure farm-to-table safety," said Vice-Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei.

According to Ma, the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, is busy consolidating the food-safety legal system.

(China Daily July 2, 2002)

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