Leading officials of local governments across China will be held accountable for failing to ensure food safety within their jurisdictions, under a regulation released by the central government on Feb 24.
Officials of the Communist Party of China and government officials above county level must be held responsible for food safety in their region and conduct strict supervision, the regulation said. It was released to the public on Feb 24.
Chief department officials related to food safety, such as those from health and market supervision departments, must be responsible for the sector they supervise, it said.
Party chiefs and officials in local governments will be rewarded for major improvements in food safety, or effectively preventing food safety accidents from happening, it said.
They will be held accountable for offenses such as dereliction of duty, failing to effectively handle food safety incidents, concealing incidents or interfering in the handling of cases, it said.
The State Administration for Market Regulation, a principal drafter of the rules, said on Feb 25 that the regulation will urge local government officials to perform their duty.
Although food safety has been improving in China in recent years, it still faces challenges in light of people’s rising expectations, so the establishment of such an accountability system is necessary, it said.
“Although similar measures such as local governments taking responsibility for food safety in their jurisdictions have been mentioned in previous laws and regulations, including the new Food Safety Law, the release of this regulation will intensify the pressure on local officials,” said Luo Yunbo, a food sciences professor at China Agricultural University.
In some major previous cases, loopholes in supervision were exposed, including a lack of definitions allocating responsibility between different government departments, he said, adding that the regulation will solve the problem.
“But detailed regulations should include exactly what punishment chief local officials will face for failing in their duty,” he said.
More than 97 percent of food available in the domestic market was up to standard, the State Administration for Market Regulation said in January, following inspections in the fourth quarter of last year. The inspections were organized by market regulation authorities across China and covered more than 1.4 million batches of food.