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Food Regulators Should Improve
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Government branches supervising food quality should do their job to prevent dangerous food from being produced, says a signed article in the Beijing News. An excerpt follows:

As an investigation into duck eggs with cancer-causing red dye carries on, reports came in from Hebei, where the first case of bad eggs was found. It seems several duck egg wholesalers sold the Sudan dye to the duck raisers, asked them to feed their ducks or chickens with the dye, and then purchased the red-yolk for wholesale.

Although this occurrence happened in Hebei, it's an important part of a larger picture. The smooth passage of the duck eggs containing the dye to the market happened with the assistance of the wholesale dealers.

As agriculture is becoming more market-orientated, wholesalers of agricultural products play an important role in relaying market information to farmers who do not have a complete idea of demand in the market.

For the same reason, local governments in rural areas and farmers are willing to facilitate wholesale dealers and trust their suggestions.

But the information from wholesalers is often manipulated in the interests of their businesses. This is highlighted in the Hebei case.

Looking back at cases involving food security and product quality, manipulation of information by wholesalers is often one of the most important factors. Some wholesale dealers ask producers to violate rules and regulations in order to boost profits.

The wholesale dealers are able to manipulate the market because the supervising authorities of the market do not fully perform their duties. Long discussed, this problem has never been fixed.

The quality control departments in charge of checking duck eggs in Hebei say they carry out an examination every year, but they have never found eggs containing the cancer-causing dye. The six governmental branches taking care of the quality of duck eggs do not have clearly-defined responsibilities among themselves, leaving the market to the whim of wholesalers.

If wholesale dealers are driven by high profits, they will distort market information to mislead producers and consumers. Exploiting the current lack of supervision, the dealers can destroy the market for their own benefits.

To change the situation, the only solution is for authorities to better perform their watchdog duties over the quality of commodities.

(China Daily November 27, 2006)

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