That’s according to a hard-hitting editorial in China Daily, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, that puts the Ministry of Public Security on notice to push through legal reforms.
The ministry, which said it investigated 12,000 food-related crimes last year and crushed a number of unlicensed factories and sales networks, has announced it will work with other government departments to tighten legal penalties.
The newspaper said a new push towards the “improvement of judicial interpretations” to make fake-food production a crime would bring about an effective deterrent to criminals operating on the periphery of the food industry.
“China has put in place a relatively developed legal system to combat food and drugs counterfeiting, but both an amendment to Criminal Law and a new Food Safety Law [that come into effect in 2015] fail to stipulate specific penalties for those producing adulterated and counterfeit products,” the leader said.
“Such a legal vacuum has left space for producers of counterfeit food and pharmaceuticals to dodge their deserved criminal responsibilities. Thus, it is necessary for the authorities to add targeted clauses to the country's laws.”
The manufacture of fake and adulterated foods has been gathering steam in recent years. Perhaps the best known adulteration was the melamine scandal of 2008, when chemicals added to infant formula produced by Sanliu led to six deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Lately, authorities have been forced to tackle growing instances of plastic rice being added to edible rice, years-old chicken feet bleached in acid so they appear fresh and counterfeiters dressing up substandard formula in brand-name packaging, to name a few.
China News, whose views can often be traced directly to the government’s ruling clique, said that stricter laws and penalties were not the only way to eradicate nefarious foods, but they would deter some individuals from the practice.
“Given that the manufacturing of fake and shoddy foods… has escalated to be a major threat to public health. Lowering the threshold for their definition as a crime is thus of practical significance,” it said.