BEIJING – China claims to have detection methods for all food additives that can be legally used in the country.
In response to recent media reports that 60 percent of additives cannot be detected, the Ministry of Health on Monday said its methods to detect additive residues in food are basically the same as developed countries.
According to a notice issued by the ministry, qualified institutions can detect the more than 2,300 legal food additives and can carry out the inspection and supervision needs for the production and management of food additives.
The country tests for additives that have specific limits, such as preservatives, colorants and sweeteners, while it does not test for additives that are the same as natural substances in the food and have low safety risk.
The notice is apparently in response to recent reports – following an inspection of food safety laws by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress – that 60 percent of food additives in China cannot be detected.
However, food safety experts still have doubts.
“Some local quality supervision branches are not equipped with advanced detectors, and the number of detectors is insufficient,” said Sang Liwei, a food-safety lawyer and the China representative of the NGO Global Food Safety Forum.
Sang estimated that there are more than 400,000 food businesses in China, and in some places one technician is responsible for overseeing as many as 100 companies.
“Safe food relies on production, not supervision,” Yu Jun, deputy director of the Food Safety Commission Office of the State Council, said at the Third China Food Safety Forum on June 13.
Sang also said more attention should be paid to food production and processing rather than subsequent supervision to prevent the illegal use and abuse of additives.
He suggested establishing a real-name system for buyers of food additives to control the use of illegal chemicals and the overuse of legal ones.
The country implemented a real-name policy for the purchase of forbidden veterinary drugs in May.
The Ministry of Agriculture now requires local authorities to take the names of anyone buying items from a list of 151 commonly abused substances – including clenbuterol and melamine – additives at the center of recent scandals involving unsafe food.