Speeches & Transcripts

Opening Remarks by Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for China, Mongolia and Korea, at International Food Safety Forum

June 15, 2015

Bert Hofman International Food Safety Forum Beijing, China

As Prepared for Delivery

On behalf of the World Bank Group, I would like to thank the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for inviting us to participate in this important event. 

The World Health Organization has dedicated food safety as the theme of World Health Day 2015, making it an important year for global food safety issues worldwide.

This year has also been very important for food safety issues in China as well.  The new Food Safety Law presents new opportunities for strengthening oversight for achieving food safety and supporting better, more innovative food safety systems in China.

We commend the Government for giving priority to this agenda because it affects all of China’s people, the economy and the environment.  China’s actions in food safety with the international community signals its desire tackle the challenge and engage with and learn from the global food system.

Food safety is an important element for food security policies

China’s new Food Safety Law has come at an opportune time as the country is entering an era where the bulk of food consumption will come from higher value and processed foods – driven primarily by urbanization and income growth.

There is thus a need to move toward more multi-dimensional food policy approaches to meet the challenges of urbanization.

This means moving from a traditional ‘food security policy’ to a modern policy focusing on food safety, nutrition, safety nets, and trade.

This requires simultaneous attention to environmental protection, pollution control, and modernization of farming and food processing systems. 

It also safety requires close cooperation between the government, private sector and farmers along the food supply chain.

The World Bank Group is calling for a global food system that can feed everyone, every day and everywhere with safe and nutritious food delivered in a sustainable way.

Since the majority of food in China is produced by smallholder farmers, we also see food safety as an important entry point for achieving poverty reduction targets and boosting shared prosperity in China. 

Specifically, if smallholders can effectively link to modern supply chains, their livelihood is likely to improve as a result of higher quality produce and higher prices.

It is clear that China's leadership is paying significant attention to food safety. In this regard, we have committed to work with the Government to help them achieve a better food system that feeds their populations with safe and nutritious food, as well as helps to integrate the national system into the global food system in a sustainable manner.

In doing so, we are working as one World Bank Group as well as through global partnerships such as the Global Food Safety Partnership which is hosted by the World Bank.

The Global Food Safety Partnership provides a platform for building food safety capacity that brings together the collective knowledge and experiences of both the public and private sectors.

We are delighted that China is an active participant in this partnership, and we were very pleased to have Vice Minister Teng‘s participate in Singapore at the GFSP Annual Conference held in December 2013.


Since the establishment of the CFDA in 2013, our collaboration has grown and thrived. An MOU which was signed between CFDA and Bank in 2014 has laid a solid foundation for cooperation.

Our portfolio has a number of food safety projects:

Ongoing projects through the IDF grant to CFDA and the Jilin Food Safety project;

Cross-section of new proposed projects in Jiangxi, Hunan, TCC 6, among others.

The centerpiece of our collaboration with CFDA has been the Food Safety Capacity Building Needs Assessment which is jointly implemented by CFDA experts of CFDA and the World Bank Group, supported by the GFSP:

This needs assessment is opening new avenues for WBG/CFDA/GFSP collaboration.

We see great value in supporting CFDA’s national capacity building efforts and identifying best international and national practices that could be scaled up throughout the country.

Furthermore, the on-going work on needs assessment with CFDA indicates that China could become a regional and global model for addressing food safety issues.

The solutions to tackle food safety issues in China must be specific and applicable for China. We have identified the following challenges which are also applicable to other MIC countries in the region:

First, there is huge need for capacity building at all levels in order to deliver quality services;

Second, while considerable efforts have been made to improve infrastructure for testing and risk management (e.g. laboratories, research institutes and testing centers), there is a need to complement these efforts with risk-based testing approaches. Identifying risks along the food production chain and testing products before they enter the market, distribution or circulation, would help prevent food safety issues before they occur;

Third, risk-based food safety control – a core requirement for the new food safety law – is an important aspect of the food safety system, and there is considerable potential for improving this especially at levels where direct food safety oversight takes place. Good practice examples already exist in China and could be scaled-up.

Four, there continues to be strong public attention on economically motivated adulterations, and the government has rightly strengthened punishments for such actions in the new food safety law and this is consistent with global good practices. In this regard, we welcome the new food safety law calls for industry associations to play a more significant role in promoting food safety and to forge public-private partnerships with the food industry.

Five, the recent institutional reforms in China have strengthened central level oversight for food safety. While the institutional strengthening has been quite successful at the central level, there still needs to be support for enhancing and/or establishing these new systems/approaches in the provinces.

Finally, we encourage CFDA and all related agencies to proactively engage the public on the fact that food safety is everyone's responsibility - from farm to chopsticks!  While we all agree on the importance and centrality of the public sector and its institutions, food safety requires behavioral change and improved management practices among farmers, companies, food distributors and the consumers.

In closing, let me sincerely thank you for the opportunity to speak at this very important Forum, and also thank CFDA leadership for their continuing effort to strengthen collaboration with the World Bank Group and other international partners.

Again, I would like to thank CFDA, and in particular Vice-Minister Teng for his personal support for the successful WBG-GFSP/CFDA collaboration, and for promoting improved capacity building for food safety.

We remain fully committed to supporting this agenda and are confident that with the joint efforts of all the partners, China will be able to achieve significant results domestically and internationally.

Thank you.