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Reform 'must be pushed forward'
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The reform of the country's food safety monitoring system must continue this year and supervision in the sector will be tightened, Health Minister Chen Zhu has said.

The changes and improvements "must be carried forward step by step", Chen said at a national conference on food and drug safety on Tuesday, a statement on the ministry's website showed yesterday.

During the transformation of government functions and re-allocation of resources in the sector, more attention should be paid to food safety for consumers, as well as the quality of health products and cosmetics, Chen said.

At least six government departments are involved in food safety currently, which has reportedly resulted in an overlapping of responsibilities and problems for law enforcement in certain instances.

These posed as "basic problems" behind food safety incidents in the country in recent years, said Chen Junshi, a senior researcher with the National Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety.

In late December, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee also postponed debate on a revised food safety law to February, because the State Council said the country's food safety monitoring system was still being evaluated.

Sources from the NPC Standing Committee said there are currently several optional plans for the reform, but the most possible one is to set up a State-level food safety commission to coordinate relevant government departments.

At the Tuesday meeting, Chen said the focus on food safety supervision this year would also be "to prevent and solve the problem from the source", as well as to improve legislation and the setting of standards.

(China Daily January 15, 2009)

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