Food Safety in China: New Strategies

Drew Thompson and Hu Ying

Following a spate of adulterated foodstuff exports from 2005 to 2007, China’s food processing industry and regulatory system faced intense international scrutiny. Chinese leaders have responded with high-profile efforts to improve oversight. Likewise, major importers of Chinese food products and ingredients have responded with new safety regimes to monitor the rapidly growing volume of imported products from China. However, China lacks many of the critical components that contribute to safe, quality-centric manufacturing environments in Western economies, including an independent legal system and a robust civil society that represents the interests of consumers and manufacturers. China is further challenged by decentralized manufacturing and distribution systems and weak government capacity at local levels. Despite these challenges, high-level political attention in both China and importing countries indicates that mutually agreeable safety regimes are possible and the trend towards expanded international trade in foodstuffs is probable.