During the National People’s Congress meeting held last month in Beijing, a proposal to establish a new cabinet-level agency, the General Administration for Food and Drugs has been approved. The proposed ministry-level General Administration for Food and Drug will replace a large group of overlapping regulators with a role that is similar to the US Food and Drug Administration.
In an effort to combine oversight and responsibility now spread around other agencies, the new General Administration for Food and Drugs will combine the functions of the existing State Council's Food Safety Office, the State Food and Drug Administration, as well as absorbing only the food supervision duties of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).
The new General Administration for Food and Drug will be responsible for supervising food and drug safety in the process of production, circulation, and consumption in China. Departments and staff tasked with supervising food quality, currently within the SAIC and AQSIQ, will be transferred to this new agency.
While this reorganization represents a significant change, some aspects of the reorganization remain undecided, including details of the new structures, departmental responsibilities, and placement of personnel. Current indications are that the reorganization will be resolved at the federal level some time in April 2013, but it may take up to an additional six months for full implementation at the regional level.
Previously, the issuance of food production licenses was overseen by AQSIQ, but that will now be under the purview of the new General Administration for Food and Drug, in addition to food additive and packaging approval, which was under the State Food and Drug Administration, as part of the Chinese Ministry of Health (MOH). With the State Food and Drug Administration’s upgrade and expansion to a ministry level agency, these approvals will no longer be under the jurisdiction of MOH. We anticipate that China’s new national health and family planning commission—which was formerly part of the MOH— will remain responsible for assessing food safety risks and forming food safety standards, but it is likely that the personnel currently in charge of these matters will change. It is clear, however that the Agriculture Ministry will remain responsible for quality and safety supervision of farm produce.