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Food safety incidents in China over the past two decades1 have not just threatened the health of the people in the country but have also caused international concern, as China is now a major food exporter in the international market.2 One of the most infamous food safety scandals in China in recent years, the ‘melamine milk’ incident, came to light in September 2008. This incident attracted so much international attention that within about 2 months, the United Nations system launched a paper to prompt China to improve food safety.3 In this editorial, readers will be updated with the recent and less well-known changes to the major control mechanisms for food safety in mainland China. Major weaknesses in this control regime will be discussed in order to raise awareness, as well as to pave the way for making recommendations for improvement.
Food safety law and monitoring in China
The Chinese Government has long been deploying the commonly used regulatory controls on food safety, such as setting minimum safety or process standards,4 mandatory information provision,5 and conditions of use requirements.6 In addition to this, since 2002, China, through the Ministry of Health, has monitored food safety by using a national monitoring network. With 1196 monitoring sites, the network covers all provinces, 73% of cities and 25% of counties in the country as of March 2012.7 In the near future, a new China Food Net that monitors and tracks pathogens causing food-borne diseases, as well as connecting food markets, supermarkets, hospitals and restaurants, will be set up8 to fill the current lacuna in domestic food supply monitoring.9
In terms of legal development, about 1 year after the exposure of the melamine in milk incident, a new food safety law, the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China (hereafter FSL)10 took …
Contributors S-sC, drafted the article and CKCW, revised it for the approval of the final version.
Funding This work was supported by the Strategy Development Fund (SDF11-1215-P07), Hong Kong Baptist University (CKC Wong).
Competing interests None.
Patient consent Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.