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China: Food Safety Risk Assessment System Being Formulated

(June 19, 2009) China's Deputy Minister of Health, Chen Xiaohong, announced on June 12, 2009, that in the near future China will establish its first national food safety risk assessment system, to include a new national commission, a network of local offices nationwide, and special provisions on the subject. The system is needed to help prevent food safety scandals such as the 2008 melamine-tainted baby formula scandal and to further improve on the Food Safety Law that entered in force on June 1. (Wang Qian, National Safety System to Push Tainted Food off Shelves, CHINA DAILY, June 13, 2009, available at

A set of draft provisions on the food risk assessment process has already been prepared and is posted on the Ministry of Health's website. (MOH, Letter of the MOH Bureau of Supervision on Open Solicitation of Opinions on the 'Food Safety Risk Assessment Management Provisions' (Solicitation of Opinions Draft) [in Chinese] [includes the text of the draft provisions], June 9, 2009, available at

The National Food Safety Risk Assessment Expert Commission, according to the draft provisions, will make risk assessments of food safety and conduct scientific analyses. The Commission can also make an assessment after the MOH receives a report of a potential food problem or whenever the MOH, based on the relevant laws and regulations, considers it necessary. The Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, and the State Food and Drug Administration may also recommend that a risk assessment be done and provide the relevant information and materials. The draft provisions further stipulate that the Commission can, if necessary, have professional technological institutions collect and analyze related data. All the risk assessments are to be funded by the MOH and are to be conducted independently, to ensure results that are scientific, transparent, and fair. (Id; Wang Qian, supra.)

Among the stipulated circumstances in which the MOH may make a decision not to have a risk assessment are: 1) if illegal actions existing in the food production operations process may be resolved by the adoption of control measures according to law; 2) if the food safety risk is relatively minor or may be resolved through simple risk management measures; or 3) if there are extant international risk assessment conclusions appropriate for China's model for dietary exposure to contaminants. However, if there is new scientific data and relevant information proving that there still exists a need for a risk assessment, the MOH should make a decision anew to conduct one. (MOH, supra.)