China to focus on food and drug safety, plus the environment

BEIJING • China's market regulator yesterday said food and drug safety standards still fall way short of the needs of the masses and long-term efforts must be put in to ensure consumers have peace of mind.

Stamping out counterfeit and shoddy products is a key focus, said Mr Zhang Mao, head of the state market regulatory administration.

He said the regulator carried out a "relatively large crackdown" last year and dealt with 1.29 million cases of counterfeit and shoddy goods.

"Our current and future work needs to focus on food, drugs, children's products, and products for the elderly..." he told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual parliamentary meeting.

China has been plagued by food and drug scandals in recent years. Last July, hundreds of thousands of children were injected with defective vaccines for rabies, and diphtheria and tetanus, causing widespread anger among parents.

To this, Ms Jiao Hong, head of the National Drug Administration of China, said at the same press conference that "China's vaccines, on a whole, are safe" and pledged more stringent oversight of the sector.

Similarly, Mr Zhang said a new party regulation has been rolled out to hold officials directly responsible for lapses in food safety.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting yesterday, China's environment ministry pledged to keep up the pressure on businesses that pollute the environment, even as the country deals with its slowest economic growth in decades.

Environment Minister Li Ganjie said local government officials who ease the enforcement of environmental regulations for "temporary gain" will be punished.

"If we find any local officials... sacrificing protection of the environment for economic development, we will not let them off, they will be held accountable. We are very clear on this," said Mr Li.

His comments reiterate those of Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. Mr Xi had told a meeting of lawmakers from the Inner Mongolia region that economic development should not come at the expense of the environment.

Chong Koh Ping, Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Focus on food and drug safety, plus the environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe