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Senior official: Food inspections are inadequate

Updated: 2016-03-01 09:25
By Shan Juan (China Daily)

Chemical hazards are the top concern for food safety in China - primarily the abuse of additives and excessive residues of agricultural chemicals and veterinary drugs-but the administration lacks the capacity for efficient management and supervision, according to Bi Jingquan, head of the Food and Drug Administration.

Bi made the remark on Monday at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office.

"Many of our front-line food safety inspection staff lack the professional knowledge or equipment for timely detection," he said.

The administration has conducted inspections of more than 40,000 batches of food products known to be at risk for excessive residues of agricultural chemicals and veterinary drugs, and 255 were found in violation of standards. Such chemical hazards cannot be detected by consumers or eliminated by high-temperature cooking, Bi said.

In response, a professional inspection team will be formed to help tackle the problems, he said.

Food safety management and supervision is technically demanding and can't be performed well merely by "seeing with eyes, touching with hands or smelling with noses," he said.

Last week, media reports citing research linking childhood obesity to traces of veterinary antibiotics in their bodies have put food safety issues under the spotlight again. The drugs are carried by food and drinking water, according to researchers at Shanghai-based Fudan University.

Fan Zhihong, a food safety and nutrition expert in Beijing said that with increasing consumption of animal products in China, the problem needs to be thoroughly addressed. The major concern lies in the potential that the use of antimicrobial drugs in food animals could lead to increases in antibiotic resistance to bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses in people, she said.

Bi said routine supervision of animal food production and market inspections would be further strengthened.

"A tracing system for problem animal food products will be established to help correct the problem from its origin," he said.

In another development, Bi said reforms in drug registration and approval were underway to enhance efficiency. He said he recognized that the process for new drug approval took a long time and that "there was a pileup of cases".

The drug evaluation center of the administration, which oversees new drug evaluations and approvals, has long been short-staffed-only around 130 workers, he said, citing a staff of 5,000 in the US for the same tasks.

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