Before the Food Gets to Market: Are We Paying Enough Attention to the Ministry of Agriculture's Role in Food Safety in China?

Feb 28 2014, 2:35pm CST | by

By John Balzano

Discussion of Chinese food safety law and regulation frequently focuses on the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) and the laws and regulations that it administers.  CFDA, and its predecessor agency the State Food and Drug Administration, made headlines at the center of the melamine scandal and the resulting and very public death sentence and execution of its former leader Zheng Xiaoyu.

But that is really only one portion of the story surrounding food safety in China.  Less is said about the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MOA) role in supervising raw agricultural produce and vegetables, poultry, and pork products up until they enter wholesale markets. Just like CFDA, the MOA administers its own food safety law, called the Agricultural Product Quality and Safety Law. It also implements laws, regulations, and policies for the safety of pork, chicken, and seafood. Unlike the CFDA, which has been reorganized and has seen massive legislative and regulatory overhauls, MOA has seen much less change in its role.

This seems strange, because the problems that this agricultural system faces are not small. These include illegal pesticides, fertilizers, and veterinary drugs, as well as rotten or disease-ridden produce and meat. These issues are compounded by problems with the traceability of products, which are coming from hundreds of millions of small farmers and animal breeders, all with different safety issues, to markets where the products are pooled. As a result, it is often difficult to find out where the problem lies, and the contaminants change so frequently that it is also difficult to determine what to test for. Huge blind-spots also exist in MOA regulation, for example, with respect to animal and pet food in China. Nearly no regulations on core issues exist in this important area.

The best products, or products from the larger, more trusted, certified farms, may be directed to export. And, a more recent news story even suggests that many in China believe that the farmers keep many of the better, safer products for their own consumption. What we are left with, as a result, is a system not only with significant problems, but also with severe distrust among those that it serves.

Attention to fixing these problems seems to be growing stronger lately, but unlike with CFDA, the proposed solutions do not appear to be agency reorganization or new legislation or regulations. For example, in December 2013, the State Council (China’s main executive body) issued a document calling for stronger supervision of agricultural product quality and safety by local governments, as well as more attention to implementing standards. But nowhere in the document did the State Council call for revision of the Agricultural Product Quality and Safety Law or any particular new laws. Indeed, a recent article in the Chinese press indicates that, while an amendment will eventually come, MOA feels more research needs to be done first.

This leaves us with more to ponder and some to watch. If MOA is really playing a lesser role, why? Is there a structural problem, such being caught between promotion of the agricultural economy and measures to control its safety? Or is it a problem of resources?

Perhaps it is a question of paying more attention to MOA. Will this increased public and government attention, at least on the policy level, lead to something more substantial in this area? The fact that we do not have answers to these questions means that it may be a good time to recognize and more closely follow MOA’s role in promoting food safety in China.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Martian structure reveals signs of life on Red Planet
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) A new mineral-rich structure discovered from a Martian meteorite has led scientists to believe that there may be niche environments on Mars subsurface that support life.
 
 
New vaccine offers protection against tuberculosis, leprosy
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) In a breakthrough, US researchers have found that an improved tuberculosis vaccine can offer strong protection against leprosy.
 
 
Handwashing with antibacterial soap may not be a good idea
New York, Aug 20 (IANS) Next time when you buy an antibacterial soap for a germ-free day for your kids, check if the soap contains a widely-used chemical or not.
 
 
Transparent solar device that doesn't block the view
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) Imagine a solar device that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Emraan Hashmi's foreign film 'Tigers' to premiere at TIFF
New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) Indian actor Emraan Hashmi's debut international project "Tigers", directed by the Oscar winning Danis Tanovic, will have its world premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Martian structure reveals signs of life on Red Planet
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) A new mineral-rich structure discovered from a Martian meteorite has led scientists to believe that there may be niche environments on Mars subsurface that support life. The ovoid structure...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
New vaccine offers protection against tuberculosis, leprosy
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) In a breakthrough, US researchers have found that an improved tuberculosis vaccine can offer strong protection against leprosy. "This is the first study demonstrating that an improved vaccine...
Read more on Business Balla
 
IS claims beheading US journalist
Damascus, Aug 20 (IANS) The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed beheading a US journalist who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago, a media report said Wednesday. The Sunni militant group has released a...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Jennifer Hudson's brother arrested for 'stabbing love rival'
Jennifer Hudson's half-brother has been arrested for allegedly repeatedly stabbing a love rival in the face. Stephen Simpson is being held in custody in Michigan and is expected to be charged with attempted murder and...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Gary Busey claims Patrick Swayze's ghost connection
Gary Busey claims he was visited by Patrick Swayze's ghost last week. The 'Lethal Weapon' actor believes he has a connection to the spiritual world after his heart stopped during brain surgery after a motorbike crash...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Handwashing with antibacterial soap may not be a good idea
New York, Aug 20 (IANS) Next time when you buy an antibacterial soap for a germ-free day for your kids, check if the soap contains a widely-used chemical or not. Handwashing with antibacterial soap may expose people...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Transparent solar device that doesn't block the view
Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) Imagine a solar device that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window. Researchers at Michigan State University has developed a...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Spain knock out India in squash championship
Windhoek (Namibia), Aug 20 (IANS) Spain defeated India 2-1 in the quarterfinal of the WSF World Junior Squash Team Championship here Tuesday. In the first singles, Madhav Dhingra lost to Iker Pajares 4-11, 9-11, 6-11...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Aaron Paul in awe of David Beckham
Aaron Paul was shocked when David Beckham asked him for a selfie to send to his wife Victoria. The 34-year-old actor - who shot to fame playing meth manufacturer Jesse Pinkman in US drama series 'Breaking Bad' - was...
Read more on Celebrity Balla