China to set up ‘pre-emptive’ food safety network: official

December 31st, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Dec 31 (Xinhua) The Chinese government is preparing a “pre-emptive” monitoring system to ensure food safety to prevent recurrence of the countrywide tained baby food scandal that killed six infants and sickened nearly 30,000.
“It means we will try to rid food problems by early detection, early warning and early intervention,” Su Zhi, deputy general director of health inspection and supervision bureau in the health ministry, said Wednesday.

Despite frequent government crackdowns, use of illegal non-food substances to food remains a threat in the country, the latest example of which was the baby food formula tainted by toxic industrial chemical melamine that is thought to increase the protein content of milk.

Su said the “pre-emptive” monitoring system will include a monitoring network on food manufacturing and distribution with focus on food additives and non-food substances.

“Enterprises must list what they’ve added into the food products. Except for food additives, it is illegal to add any other non-food substances no matter whether they are harmful or not,” he said.

The system will also include a monitoring network on food-borne diseases, blacklists of illegal food additives, building of a competent technician team and a transparent reporting system, he said.

Su said the “pre-emptive” approach, proposed by China’s Health Minister Chen Zhu, was based on lessons from the tainted dairy scandal.

“We used to rely on crackdowns (to solve food problems),” he said. “But now we are combining punishment with prevention with more stress on the latter.”

On Dec 15, the ministry blacklisted 17 non-food substances that could not be added to food, including melamine and cancer-causing industrial dye sudan red used to colour egg yolks.

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