NPC May Establish Unified Food and Drug Agency

Among the most anticipated policy unveilings at the ongoing Two Sessions is the likely consolidation of some of China’s 27 ministries and countless lower-level government bodies. The State Administration for Radio, Film and Television and General Administration of Press and Publication, for example, may be absorbed by the Ministry of Culture, while the Ministry of Transport is widely expected to swallow the colossal and scandal-wracked Ministry of Railways. Responsibility for food and possibly drug safety, currently scattered across 13 separate agencies, may also be unified in a single body in order to better combat the country’s steady stream of public health scares. From Zhuang Pinghui at the South China Morning Post:

The ministerial-level body, due to be approved within days at the annual session of the National People’s Congress, will follow the example of the US Food and Drug Administration.

It will integrate regulation and law enforcement in one agency.

[…] Despite numerous nationwide crackdowns, consumer confidence in the mainland’s food and drug industry has been shattered. The current system is tangled in red tape, with up to 13 government agencies controlling food and drug regulation and supervision.

The industrial and commerce authority, for example, is responsible for packaging, while the Ministry of Health handles food safety standards.

The Ministry of Agriculture steps in if animals are involved.

Academics and food safety watchdogs have long complained that the numerous agencies create blind spots and overlaps of power that contribute to the chaos.

Super-sized ministries may not fulfill their promised efficiency gains, however, as The Economist (via CDT) recently explained.

The structure of Chinese food production is also highly fragmented. Here, too, consolidation seems likely, as huge numbers of small-scale suppliers give way to a much smaller number of industrial-scale farms. While big agribusiness can bring its own problems, this trend is expected to greatly simplify food production chains and ease monitoring and enforcement of food safety.