China Takes Higher Initiative on Food and Drug Safety: Plans to Spend $1 Billion

August 16, 2007
Angie Drakulich
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

China will spend more than $1 billion to improve its food and drug safety by 2010 and give its State Food and Drug Administration more oversight powers.

Beijing (Aug. 8)-China will spend more than $1 billion to improve its food and drug safety by 2010 and give its State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) more oversight powers, said a government official in a Reuters article by Ben Blanchard. The news is not surprising given the numerous Chinese products–pet food, toothpaste, fish, and juice, to name a few-that have been contaminated during the past several months. Even the US government sent a fact-finding team to China to address concerns in food and drug safety.

The country’s flailing attempt to clean up its act to date has had a negative effect on American attitudes toward the country. According to a nationwide Zogby Interactive poll of 4508 adults conducted in mid-July (before this week’s Chinese/Fisher-Price toy product recall), 82% of Americans said they are concerned about purchasing goods from China. Another 59% said they are not confident that foods from China are safe to eat. Even scarier, nearly two-thirds said they would participate in a boycott of Chinese goods until the country implements stricter safety regulation, and would be more likely to purchase a product with a “China-free” label.

In other survey results, 17% of Americans said they believe the US government isn't doing enough to stop tainted items from entering the country, while only 7% believe foreign governments are to blame. The vast majority (89%) believes the US government should put stronger pressure on China and other foreign countries to increase product quality and safety standards.

The US Food and Drug Administration has stepped up inspections and banned imports of several Chinese farm-raised foods to eliminate any potential health risks. The recent fact-finding team from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is also expected to deliver a report to President George W. Bush next month on import safety.

SFDA Spokesperson Yan Jiangying said China has earmarked $1.16 billion for food and drug safety to carry out its ongoing five-year plan. Goals include the creation of a new, large laboratory, and a nationwide marketing campaign on safety, with a focus on rural food safety.

“Once the five-year plan has been completed, the abilities and the base of the regulator will be substantially raised,” said Yan, according to the Reuters article. “There will be an enormous improvement in the system for guaranteeing food and drug safety for the public.”

The Chinese agency’s increased oversight would also include the ability to seal factories and seize materials when they come across substandard products, added Yan.

Concerns are rising as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach, however, China seems confident that it can secure food safety before the Games begin. The country is planning to implement an “elaborate monitoring system…to help oversee the whole process of food production, processing, and transportation,” said Wang Wei, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), in an Aug. 11. 2007 People’s Daily article, the Chinese government’s primary news outlet.

The pending HHS report on import safety and the events of next few months should provide valuable insight into just how well China is prepared to host the Olympics, not to mention to continue exporting its products abroad.