New China Environment Forum Report Offers Solutions to China's Food Safety Problems

Thursday, September 25, 2008 General News J E 4
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 - Recently, 53,000 Chinese infants became ill or were hospitalized due to tainted milk, leading to the resignation of the head of China's food safety agency and the arrest of 18 people. But despite a flurry of crackdowns and new laws, the causes of these catastrophic breakdowns in food safety remain. In their new China Environment Forum (CEF) report "Sowing the Seeds: Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation on Food Safety," authors Linden J. Ellis and Jennifer L. Turner examine the drivers behind China's failures and highlight ways to ensure the safety of the global food chain and human health in China and beyond.

"China faces huge barriers to improving its food safety, including strong local government protectionism, the lack of product liability law, limited monitoring capacity, a weak court system, and low consumer and food handling education," says CEF's Ellis. But, as CEF Director Turner points out, "The United States and China could work together to improve communications and monitoring of food safety."

The poorly regulated food system in China --- the U.S.'s third largest importer --- puts both Chinese and U.S. consumers at risk. The U.S. FDA inspects only 1% of China's food imports and subjects only 0.2% to laboratory examination. Nevertheless, China's dual food safety system means that exports are generally safer than the dangerous products delivered to low-income Chinese.

To combat these problems, the United States and China could collaborate in five key areas:

Sowing the Seeds: Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation on Food Safety is online:

English --

Chinese --

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds, engaged in the study of national and world affairs.

The China Environment Forum encourages dialogue among U.S. and Chinese scholars, policymakers, businesses, and NGOs on China's environmental and energy challenges.

For interviews or hard copies, contact Linden Ellis at (202) 691-4022 or

Sharon McCarter, Director of Outreach and Communications

Phone: (202) 691-4016

-- Improve communication of food safety incidents -- Promote stronger scientific risk assessment, monitoring, and standards -- Create a system of unbiased agricultural extension agents -- Improve monitoring of food handlers -- Strengthen grassroots monitoring and consumer activism

SOURCE Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars


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