Food watchdog to clean house

By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-18 07:16

The chief of the State food and drug watchdog vowed yesterday to do more to prevent food safety accidents, regulate the medication market and fight against corruption.

"The year 2007 will be a critical one in the fight to improve the work of food and drug supervision authorities," Shao Mingli, director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), wrote in a report to a national working conference yesterday.

The SFDA spent a lot of time in the public spotlight last year because of food safety accidents. Fake children milk powder, contaminated fish, poisonous pork and dyed duck eggs caused scares across the country.

And more than 20 people died in May and July after taking fake and low-quality medicine made in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and East China's Anhui Province.

Corruption has also been a problem at the SFDA.

Former SFDA Director Zheng Xiaoyu has been charged with bribery and is under investigation by the country's top disciplinary department.

Zheng, 63, was removed from his post in 2005 after being accused of taking bribes during his eight years as China's top drug watchdog, Xinhua quoted the China Business Post as having said.

The news came after Hao Heping, 58, the former director of the SFDA's medical equipment department, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined 200,000 yuan ($25,000) last November.

And Cao Wenzhuang, 44, the former director of the SFDA's drug registration department, was put under investigation in January last year. Both had worked as Zheng's secretary, and Cao's confession reportedly led to Zheng's exposure.

Shao has called on food and drug supervision officials across the country to improve their regulations for registering, producing, using and advertising drugs this year.

And the authorities will introduce a supervisory system for injections. Drug watchdog authorities will also dispatch supervisors to every factory to oversee their work.

The two major drug accidents that occurred last year involved injections.

As for food safety, the countryside and suburbs will be the focus of supervisory efforts, Shao said.

Legislation aimed at guaranteeing food safety will be promoted this year. The country's system for supervising food safety is to be upgraded so that the authorities can more easily determine who is responsible for food safety accidents.

Shao said making sure the country's drug authorities are honest would be one of the SFDA's chief tasks this year.

(China Daily 01/18/2007 page3)

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