The five-year plan on food and drug safety administration, the
first of its kind, comes rather late compared with China's many
other development blueprints drawn for the 11th Five-Year Plan
However, it is no less important. In fact, without doubled
efforts to ensure better food and drug safety, the country's
achievements in social and economic development will stand
The State Council recently issued the plan to improve monitoring
and law enforcement in food and drug production so as to reduce
risks to public safety.
According to the plan, the food safety-information monitoring
network will cover 90 percent of the country by 2010. Drug quality
inspection will also be strengthened in the coming years.
These goals are pertinent to the country's reality.
While the Chinese economy has been expanding at a double-digit
rate for years, reports of food and drug safety accidents have also
been increasing at a rate that has added considerably to public
Frequent exposure of cases where low-quality raw materials and
even poisonous industrial additives have been mixed with food to
reduce costs has made consumers nervous.
Worse, a number of fatal accidents arising from lax drug safety
in recent years have further shaken people's confidence in the
public health system which already falls far short of expectations.
The recent case of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former chief of the State Food
and Drug Administration, accused of taking bribes, is compelling
evidence of how big the loopholes in regulation might have
The Chinese authorities have realized that such loopholes if
left unfixed, go against efforts to raise living standards, which
is the underlying goal of the country's social and economic
development. Hence, the government has responded with the new
five-year plan on food and drug safety administration.
Undoubtedly, to fulfil the plan's goals, governments at all
levels will have to substantially increase expenditure on
infrastructure construction for food and drug safety.
More public spending is desirable but not enough for it does not
ensure enhanced supervision.
To ensure effective supervision of food and drug safety, it is
necessary to make the organizations responsible for inspection and
administration more accountable to the public. And to that end,
more public scrutiny should be introduced as soon as possible
during implementation of the new plan.
(China Daily May 14, 2007)