By Ron Klein
AFDO Program Director
In February 2016, Yale Law School’s China Law Center, reached out to AFDO for a speaker to participate in a series of three food safety law workshops scheduled for March 2016 in the Peoples Republic of China (China). I participated on behalf of AFDO. The delegation included Robert Williams, Acting Director of the China Law Center and Fred Sadler, former Director of FDA’s Information Office. While each workshop had a slightly different agenda and mixtures of participants, a common thread for issues addressed was traceability, recalls, collaboration, transparency and information disclosure.
In 2013, China reorganized regulatory responsibility for food safety and established the China Food and Drug Administration, as a ministry level agency with broad responsibility (with limited exceptions) for regulating the food from production to distribution to consumption. In 2015 China’s Food Safety Law was amended to provisions related to information disclosure, central-local coordination, inspections and tracing systems.
The three workshops were:
1. March 14, 2016, Beijing: Sino-U.S. Workshop on the Implementation and Enforcement of Food Safety Law, held at the Law School of the Central University of Finance and Economics, Food Law Center.
2. March 15, 2016, Beijing: Sino-U.S. Workshop on Food Safety Information Disclosure, Peking University Law School.
3. March 17, 2016, Shenzhen: Implementation of Food Safety Law Information and Regulation, The Center of Regulation and Public Policy, Shenzhen University.
During the workshops I made presentations on U.S. efforts to establish a National Integrated Food Safety System. China differs with the United States in that it has a unitary system of government, however it requires central-local coordination to implement national food safety laws and policy. In the United States we have a federal system of government where authorities are allocated to the federal government and states based upon the Constitution. While the systems of government differ, the United States has put much effort in learning how to develop collaborative tools and approaches to facilitate regulatory consistency, mutual reliance, and leveraging of resources between state, federal, and local partners. American experiences provide examples that can be considered to help address different food safety law implementation needs elsewhere. Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS) topics described included the Partnership for Food Protection, Program Standards, Laboratory Accreditation to ISO Standards, National Curriculum Standards and Training, Rapid Response Teams and Food Safety Task Forces. Mr. Sadler presented on the “Freedom of Information Act, Disclosure, Openness, Transparency, and Proactive Release as Applied in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition”. Mr. Sadler and I also did joint presentations which included a case example on foodborne outbreak and response. We described how the FDA and the states collaborate and leverage resources to communicate food safety information to the public.
The workshops were well attended by China Food and Drug Administration leaders, staff, and academia, representing a variety of disciplines including law, economics who play a key role in China in undertaking research and making recommendations to inform food safety laws, policies, and procedures. Participants also included local food safety officials, media, food safety attorneys, and non-governmental organizations. The presentations provided a snapshot on efforts that are being undertaken to increase public disclosure of food safety information related to adulterated foods and recalls. One significant area which the Chinese are working on is regulating the domestic sale of food through third party platforms on the internet. It is expected to be a booming business, which I see as a heads up for the United States.
Participating in the workshops was a valuable experience. Both countries share an interest in improving domestic and international food safety.
(Above: Peking University Law School)
(Above: Shenzhen University Law School. Left to Right: Robert Williams, Acting Director, Yale Law School, China Law Center; Frederick Sadler, FDA (Retired); and Ron Klein, Program Director, AFDO