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China enacts ‘toughest food safety law yet’

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

China enacts ‘toughest food safety law yet’

Related tags: Food safety, Food, Codex alimentarius

After months of proposals and briefings, China has now revised its food safety laws for the first time in six years. 

The new legislation will deliver tougher civil and criminal punishments for those found to be in violation. 

As FoodNavigator-Asia reported last month, companies that violate the law will now be restricted in terms of future loans, taxation, bidding and land use. 

Meanwhile, whistleblowers will be given increased incentive to report violators, and online sales will be given greater oversight.

The new laws—branded by officials as the toughest yet—appear to define more rigorously each consumer protection agency’s individual responsibilities, a significant change from when beforehand a number of authorities had been responsible for a range of aspects of the laws and their enforcement.

The new system comprises just two regulatory bodies: the Ministry of Agriculture, for all agricultural products; and the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), which regulates all processed foods, as well as manufacturing, distribution, retail and trade.

The involvement of so many authorities also caused problems of coordination from enactment to enforcement​,” Bian Yongmin, a law professor, wrote in the journal China Perspectives.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission will meanwhile be in charge of setting national food safety standards and assessing risks.

Following an ongoing spate of food safety scares, commonly seen as originating with the 2008 tainting of infant formula with the chemical melamine which left thousands of babies sick, food safety has become a burning issue among Chinese consumers.

A recent report by Pew Research Centre​ found that 71% of Chinese consumers considered the safety of their food a “very big problem​” or a “moderately big problem​.”

Concerns about food safety have risen over the past seven years amid several high-profile scares​,” the report said. 

Roughly a third (32%) now say food safety is a very big problem, up 20 percentage points from 12% in 2008​.”

One expert on Chinese food safety told China’s CCTV that the new laws were a significant departure from the previous system. 

The new law sets forth a new regulatory system​,” said Professor Luo Yunbo. 

The old system drew a lot of criticism from the public. From farmland to food processors to dining tables, from manufacturing to distribution to sales, different government departments regulate different sections of the supply chain. This results in many regulatory loopholes and grey areas​.

[The centralisation of ministerial responsibility] will greatly change the regulatory environment. Because previously, all the standards and rules were set by regulatory departments themselves. This was not scientific​," Luo added.

10 charged in wake of Shanghai expired meat scandal

Ten people have been charged for their alleged part in a food scandal that saw out-of-date meat being sold to retail chains. 

The 10 will answer charges of "selling inferior products​" after the affair, which erupted last year at a Shanghai company that was owned by US food supplier OSI Group. 

Six officials of Shanghai Husi Food Co. were arrested more than a year ago after a television crew filmed the alleged practices, which saw the factory shut down by the officials for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh product. 

Shanghai Husi’s clients included McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Papa John's Pizza. 

Canada could become major net food exporter to China

China is looking towards Canada to provide food in the face of increasing food insecurity.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, an official at the Canada-China Institute for Business Development said "Chinese demand for Canadian food and agricultural products is getting stronger​.”

The soil is bad [in China] so even if it is a good company or even good agricultural processes, you can’t secure a safe food source in China​,” said Howard Lin.

But before Canada can become a major exporter to China, Ottawa must establish strong bilateral trade agreements with the country, Lin added.

Traders to use online traceability system

Food exporters to China, alongside domestic importers, must now register their transactions through a new online system, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has announced. 

The system has been designed to improve traceability of food products, and to act as a safeguard to ensure that companies meet the new food regulatory requirements. 

Food businesses can also keep import and sales records on the system, which it is hoped will maintain more stringent records.

Related topics: Policy, East Asia, Food safety, China

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1 comment

Applauding China's Updated Legislation on Food Regulation

Posted by Monique Constant,

A very interesting read as China seemed lagging behind in food safety & product labelling. Good to hear it is legislating for a stronger oversight on food regulations. I am wondering if this will extend to their fur products as well as it is commonly known the labelling is misguided.
All in all it is positive to hear of the steps taken to ensure public safety against corporations that cut corners.

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