Friday, November 4, 2011

Food Safety: Who Regulates the Regulators?

Food-related scandals, often exacerbated by official negligence or corruption, can cause major political embarrassment in China.  In the approach to the Olympic games in Beijing in August 2008, the leadership's efforts to create an image of a safe and hygienic China led to the suppression of news about a widespread contamination of milk products with melamine, a chemical that can be toxic.  By the time the central government admitted the problem in September that year, tends of thousands of babies had been affected and several had died.
Public anger over the incident hastened the passing of a food-safety law in 2009 which was intended to tighten standards, improve supervision and impose tougher penalties on violators.  It appears to have done no more to alleviate public anxiety than did the execution in 2007 of a former head of the State Food and Drug Administration for taking bribes to certify products as safe.
The Economist.  “Food Safety in China: In the gutter.”  October 28, 2011. Page 49.

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