The change from ‘State’ to ‘China’ in the name of the body is, according to the China Daily, part of “the country's renewed efforts to reduce bureaucracy and improve efficiency via a cabinet restructuring.”
The ‘new’ body commenced last week and was described by State sponsored news-site xinhuanet as “a more powerful watchdog,” with ex-Director of the food safety commission, Zhang Yong, taking the reins of a reverted “ministerial-level agency to improve food and drug safety.”
The SFDA’s reputation suffered from corruption charges brought against its former chief Zheng Xiaoyu – who was executed in 2007 – which led to the agency’s status being downgraded.
The re-elevation has mostly been to counter a number of issues the SFDA had regarding the food side of operations though the agency has also recently focused on improving drug approvals, development and distribution practices, issuing a series of reforms of late.
According to the South China Post, the body had become entangled in red tape “with up to 13 government agencies controlling food and drug regulation and supervision” and the restructuring programme will address this, though for now the CFDA will retain the same responsibilities over drug and medical device supervision as the SFDA.
Clamp-Downs & Scandals
Though SFDA corruption has been relatively mute since 2007, the agency has been forced to issue a number of crackdowns and reforms in response to a number of scandals.
In 2008, unscrupulous Chinese suppliers allowed contaminated heparin – an anticoagulant - to enter the US market and was, according to the FDA speaking in the New York Times, responsible for up to 81 deaths.
And just last year the SFDA were forced to clamp down on manufacturers after excessive levels of toxins tainted gel capsules, whilst Joincare Pharmaceutical Group was found to be manufacturing antibiotics with reprocessed cooking oil.
However, for now the CFDA will be likely to continue the SFDA’s work on stopping counterfeit drugs and illegal drugmakers. In January the SFDA upped rewards for people reporting illegal producers and created a special taskforce to target internet sellers of ersatz drugs and ingredients.