February 21, 2017 / 12:00 PM / 10 months ago

China revises food, drug safety targets for 2020

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has revised 2020 regulatory targets for food and drug safety in a bid to crack down on illegal activity and lax regulation.

The State Council, in guidelines published on Tuesday, upgraded surveillance measures for imported and exported goods and raised the maximum acceptable limits of pesticide and antibiotic residues in produce.

The plan requires 50 countries that export a high volume of food products to China to make additional safety assessments and calls for the construction of 20 ports designated for food inspection and quarantine.

The revisions also require increased scrutiny of health food products and infant milk formula.

China has bolstered safety regulation in previous years in reaction to several high-profile food scares, including the discovery of heavy metal products in rice in 2013 and chemical residue in infant milk formula that led to several fatalities in 2008.

The latest regulations also commit to halting any further increase in the use of harmful pesticides, urging producers to consider organic alternatives, a move that is at odds with China’s food output needs.

A large majority of China’s 11.8 million licensed food production enterprises are small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, the State Council said.

It also said a boom in online food and drug sales had led to new challenges in monitoring safety over the entire supply chain.

In the first three quarters of last year Chinese regulators found more than 500,000 food safety violations.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Robert Birsel

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