China is now working on a new system of food safety standards that is expected to guarantee people's health and be more compatible with international norms, said a senior health official on Saturday in Beijing.
"The Ministry of Health is now working with other government agencies to formulate a new system of food safety standards, as required by the country's new food safety law that went into effect 1 June this year," said Vice Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong at the Food and Drug Safety Responsibility Forum on Saturday.
According to Mr Chen, the new system will integrate existing food safety standards, eliminate areas that overlap or contradict each other, and establish new standards for areas that previously lacked regulation.
"The amount of pathogenic microorganisms, pesticide residue, microorganism residue, heavy metals and pollutants in food products, as well as the use of food additives are the priority areas," noted Mr Chen. "We are also building up an expert team on food safety standards."
Mr Chen promised transparency in the making of the new system and encouraged experts and enterprises to submit suggestions. The new system will also be subject to the opinions of international organizations and other countries, in line with a request from the WTO, he said.
In addition to the implementation of the new law, the ministry is also stepping up efforts to establish an efficient food safety coordination mechanism, improve the health emergency response system, and set up a food safety risk-monitoring and assessment system.
A database is under construction to facilitate the flow of information between different government agencies involved in food safety administration and supervision.
Speaking at the forum, Mr Chen also urged food and drug companies to shoulder their share of responsibility in safeguarding people's health.
"Food and drug safety has a direct bearing on people's health and also sustains the sound development of the whole industry," he said. "It also reflects the credibility and social responsibility of an individual enterprise. Experiences have shown that an enterprise can generate more economic returns when putting people's health above anything else."
His opinion was echoed by another participant at the forum, Wang Maolin, the vice chairman of the Law Committee of the 10th National People's Congress.
Mr Wang said food and drug enterprises should change their role of an economic entity to that of a social entity and take on more social responsibility.
He said that corporate social responsibility (CSR) can measure an enterprise's business ethics and constitutes a threshold in entering some overseas markets. According to Wang, Chinese enterprises have to pass CSR examinations before entering developed markets such as the EU, US and Japan.
In a show of support for the government's efforts to reduce repeating food scandals that batter the industry's reputation and consumer confidence, participating entrepreneurs signed their names on an initiative to produce safe food and drugs.
The Forum on Food and Drug Safety is the summer summit of the International CEO Roundtable of Chinese and Foreign Multinational Corporations, which is held in mid-November every year in Beijing. About 700 people from various government agencies, businesses and media organizations attended Saturday's forum.