China’s food safety challenges are well known. Exposés of unsafe foods have become all too common, especially after the 2008 scandal over melamine-tainted milk. From gutter oil to fake eggs to contaminated strawberries, the long list of food safety incidents in China has alarmed domestic and international consumers alike. In October 2015, China enacted its revised Food Safety Law, which aims to strengthen the regulation of food companies and enhance oversight along the supply chain. As with other issues, the key challenge rests not in setting regulations, but rather in enforcing them. Addressing China’s food safety woes is essential for maintaining the health and confidence of a steadily urbanizing population, increasing the competitiveness of the country’s agricultural sector, and meeting the needs of all food companies doing business in or with China.
On April 28, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings hosted an event to explore the evolving landscape of China’s food safety policies, consumer responses and initiatives, and the implications for related industries. Clement Leung, Hong Kong’s commissioner for economic and trade affairs in the United States, delivered a keynote address on the roles of regulators, enforcers, and businesses in confronting the challenges of food safety in Hong Kong, drawing on his previous experience as Hong Kong’s director of food and environmental hygiene. Following Commissioner Leung’s remarks, a panel evaluated the merits and limitations of China’s revised Food Safety Law, including challenges facing its implementation and lessons from the international community.
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