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Health Ministry upgraded to better monitor food, drug safety
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China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) will be put under the Ministry of Health (MOH) as part of the cabinet restructuring reform to better monitor the country's food and drug safety.

The reform plan was announced by State Councilor Hua Jianmin here on Tuesday, also secretary general of the cabinet, to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.

The new MOH will be authorized to coordinate food safety management, organize investigations into serious food safety accidents and give due punishment, Hua said.

He said the MOH is also responsible for the constitution of the national food safety standards, the pharmaceutical code and a basic state pharmaceutical system.

The SFDA, after the reform, is responsible for food sanitation permit and monitoring of food and eatery businesses. The administration shall also monitor drug safety, including the process of research, production, circulation and use.

The Chinese government has come under great pressure to overhaul the country's food and drug safety system after a series of controversies caused by shoddy products, tainted food and corruption scandals over recent years, which sometimes led to international disputes in addition to poisoning or even deaths of people.

Figures from the MOH showed that food poisoning, ranging from vegetables with pesticide residue to fish contaminated with suspected carcinogens and eggs tainted with industrial dyes, claimed 258 lives last year, up 31.6 percent year-on-year.

Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of SFDA, set up in 2003 as a new cabinet agency, was executed in July last year for taking more than 6.5 million yuan (US$900,000) in bribes to give approval to new drugs.

"The reform plan will further promote the role of the SFDA to oversee the nation's drug safety in the process of production, circulation and use," said Shao Mingli, head of the SFDA, applauding the reform plan.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2008)

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