China embarks on four-month journey to improve food safety

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th December 2008

The perception of the safety of China’s food has taken a hit this year following the widely discussed melamine scandal, which resulted in almost 300,000 infants falling ill and sparked a spate of recalls worldwide. In response to the decline of consumer confidence in the food supply, nine Chinese departments will cooperate in a four-month, nationwide investigation to find illegal additives in food, according to the official state news agency Xinhua.

Food Safety - Protected Strawberries

The ministries of Health, Industry and Information Technology, Public Security, Supervision, Agriculture and Commerce as well as the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) will all be involved in the task – which began yesterday.

“We plan this action in the wake of the melamine-tainted baby formula,” announced Chen Xiaohong, vice minister of health, on Monday, according to Xinhua.

The criminal melamine contamination of milk powder and other dairy products was linked to the deaths of six babies and 294,000 infant illnesses. The Government has today reported that they will consider compensation claims for victims of the scandal.

“It was not a single case that banned chemicals were added in foods,” Chen added. “We need to address this problem as quickly as possible.”

The investigation will focus on protein rich foods at supermarkets, such as processed meat and dairy products as well as sauces, with tests carried out to establish whether additives are found beyond legal levels, according to Pu Changcheng, deputy director of GAQSIQ.

“The recent major food safety incident… showed it is currently a very serious problem that illegal non-edible substances are added and additives are in excessive amounts in food items,” the government noted on its website.

The findings will be publicly released after the investigation is completed in March.