Quarantine and food-security officers check quality and hygiene at a school canteen. They also checked neighboring restaurants located in Xiangshan district of Huaibei city, Anhui province. [Photo by Li Xin / For China Daily]
China’s top food and drug regulator pledged stronger oversight on Sept 23 on food and drug companies with low credibility, a move to address the serious food safety problems of recent years.
Food and drug companies that “seriously lose credibility” will see intensified inspections, more sampling of products and bans on owners running businesses related to food and drugs.
The administration will cooperate with other government departments to make sure shoddy companies are restricted in registration, financing and foreign trade, so that such companies stand to pay a heavy price for their loss of good standing, said Mao Zhenbin, head of the supervision department of the China Food and Drug Administration.
The administration has introduced a four-tier credibility monitoring system, ranking companies A, B, C or D, according to Mao.
The administration will also issue a “blacklist”, with information about enterprises on the list open to the public, Mao said.
“A credibility system is helpful in reducing serious food safety incidents in China,” said Song Liang, a dairy analyst at the Distribution Productivity Promotion Center of China Commerce, located in Beijing.
“It will encourage big enterprises to put more emphasis on product quality and invest more to get a higher credibility rating. For smaller enterprises, such a system can deter illegal behavior,” he said.
As consumption has boomed in China, food safety problems have cropped up. The root cause is lax supervision and the fact that enterprises continue to pay a low price for violations of the law, Song said.
According to CFDA’s Mao, regulatory authorities at all levels in China cracked 130,000 cases involving food safety violations, 90,000 involving drugs and more than 4,000 involving medical equipment in the first half of the year. Of those, more than 900 cases have been transferred to judicial bodies.
In a recent notorious case, Shanghai Husi Food, which supplies a number of global brands, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks, was accused in July of using expired meat in its products. It was also accused of falsifying production dates to extend shelf time.
The investigation is ongoing. Six managers of the company have been detained by the local police.
Shanghai’s food and drug administration said it summoned senior managers from OSI China, which owns Shanghai Husi, on Monday and urged them to take responsibility and cooperate with the authorities in the investigation.
Song said that while food and drug authorities develop a blacklist of food and drug companies, they should also ensure that the supervision process is fair and transparent.
“Everything should fall within the realm of law,” he said.