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Major changes are likely to be ahead for the regulation and oversight of food products in China, as a result a major reorganisation of that country’s government institutions.
According to a Notice issued through China’s Xinhua News Agency in mid-March, China’s National People’s Congress has adopted the government-wide institutional restructuring plan originally proposed by the China State Council. Under the adopted plan, a massive consolidation will reduce the number of ministries by eight and the number of State Council agencies by seven. This consolidation includes China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), which will now be merged into a newly-created Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
In addition, most of the MoA’s key government agencies in charge of food safety certification, inspection and oversight will be merged into a newly-created Market Supervision Management Bureau. This Bureau will bring together under one entity the activities of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) and the Standardization Administration (SAC). The agency shuffle will also reportedly more closely integrate supervision by regional authorities into China’s overall food safety regulatory scheme.
The reorganisation of China’s government institutions appears to be part of an effort to strengthen government oversight while reducing duplication of effort. However, at least in the short-term, these changes may also result in confusion and delays in gaining access to China’s important food marketplace.
The text of the Xinhua News Agency Notice on China’s government restructuring (in Mandarin Chinese) is available here.