Wednesday, July 11, 2007

China vows to improve food and drug safety, executes corrupt former official

The London Free Press: "China executes corrupt drug agency official"

Recently China has been beset by embarrassments and recalls associated with tainted food additives on both the domestic and international market. From melamine-tainted dog and cat food in the United States and Canada to toothpaste that has been recalled from Spanish shelves and banned in North and South America for containing thickening agent found in antifreeze, the world has begun to question the reliability of Chinese food and drug products. Perhaps most infamous was an antibiotic approved by the Chinese food and drug agency that was later found to be fake; this faked drug was linked with dozens of deaths in Panama.

But with the Olympics in Beijing just around the corner, the Chinese government has decided that these embarrassments must come to an end. The nation has pledged to closely monitor the food that will be fed to Olympic athletes to ensure not only that it is safe, but that it does not contain any additives that could result in a false-positive drug test.

As an indication of how serious the nation is about its food and drug safety situation, the government executed a former director of the agency who was found to have approved “fake drugs” for cash. Among the fake drugs he approved was the antibiotic linked to the deaths in Panama mentioned above.

It is not clear what else the government is doing to improve food and drug safety. A spokesperson for the food and drug agency stated "China is a developing country and our supervision of food and drugs started quite late and our foundation for this work is weak, so we are not optimistic about the current food and drug safety situation."


Many proponents of free trade and regional trade agreements express concerns that technical safety standards—for example, food and drug safety standards—could become a barrier to trade. What do you think should be the bar for drug and food safety in international trade? Should it be the standard of the importing nation? Should it be a standard set by an independent entity? How would it work and what would be the inevitable trade-offs?

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