China food safety

Chinese task force to target counterfeit food and drugs

New group will investigate rising number of crimes requiring more specialist knowledge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 5:51am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 5:51am

A task force with tougher powers to investigate cases of tainted food and counterfeit drugs is to be set up on the mainland.

Its staff will include food and drug inspectors, as well as the police, according to Beijing News.

Hua Jingfeng, an official at the Ministry of Public Security, told a food safety forum that the organisation would be set up soon and be called the Food and Drug Crimes Investigation Bureau, the newspaper reported.

The organisation would be based in Beijing with branches set up around the country, according to the report.

Hua said the increasing number of crimes involving food and drugs were time-consuming to investigate and needed specialist knowledge.

Most police officers did not have the training to deal with such large and complex cases, Hua said.

It is not clear if the bureau will come under the control of the national food and drug administration, the police or a new body. Teams specialised in food and drug safety crimes were set up in provinces like Hebei and Liaoning as experiments.

Hu Yinglian, associate at the National School of Administration, said many people breaking food- and drug-safety rules were only given administrative fines because inspectors did not have the same powers as police to press criminal charges.

He said setting up the bureau would act as a deterrent to offenders in the future.

According to statistics released by the central government on Friday, the mainland launched investigations into more than 43,000 food- and drug- related cases last year, with more than 60,000 suspects detained.

A food- and drug-safety inspector in Guangdong province, who asked not to be named, told the Sunday Morning Post he had heard the bureau was to be set up and he wanted to join.

"An inspector is just an ordinary public servant, but sometimes we have to encounter criminals carrying knives or firearms.

"If we know there is a risk we will ask for police protection, but most of the time we enter a small workshop without knowing what's inside."

He said he hoped investigators in the task force would be able to carry firearms in the future.

Li Jiajia, a resident of Beijing's Haidian district, said that she hoped the new task force would reduce food- and drug- related crimes. However, she also worried that it was just an excuse for existing law enforcement departments to claim more money and resources.

"China has the world's largest number of public servants and law enforcers, while its food was the least safe and environment the most polluted," she said.