‘Strictest supervision and penalties’: China introduces strengthened food safety laws

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Chinese government is strengthening its law enforcement by creating additional measures of food safety inspections ©Getty Images
The Chinese government is strengthening its law enforcement by creating additional measures of food safety inspections ©Getty Images

Related tags: China, Food safety, regulations

China’s revised regulations of the Food Safety Law regulation has been enforced as of December 1, 2019, with a focus on priorities such as enhancing its law enforcement and emphasising the protection of consumers.

The new regulations will tighten the penalty system.

For instance, legal persons, persons in charge, managers, or individuals who were directly responsible will be fined if the entity they worked for was found to intentionally commit a food safety violation.

Xin Li, senior regulatory counsellor at Keller and Heckman LLP Shanghai office told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “The person in charge and possibly others within the company, including the legal representative, may be fined for a company’s food safety violations or fraudulent food advertising​.”

For intentional or very serious illegal acts, the fines could be up to 10 times the individual’s income of the previous year.

Enhanced law enforcement

In addition to that, the Chinese government is strengthening its law enforcement by creating additional measures of food safety inspections.

Notably, the supervising food agencies may carry out random inspections on factories that are subject to the jurisdictions of its subordinate agencies or cross-assign their subordinate agencies to inspect the factories that are not within their jurisdictions.

For instance, if Shanghai’s municipal food agency found it necessary, they may order the food authority in Huangpu District to inspect a food factory in Yangpu District. The reason for this was to avoid potential conflict of interest and the local protection during the enforcement.

The government will also implement a reward system for reporting food safety violations.

Consumer protection

The new regulations will also focus on consumer protection by strictly prohibiting exaggerated and false advertising of food, which may mislead consumers.

Xin said: “To prevent misleading, the Regulation makes it clear that food products other than heath food are not allowed to claim health functions in China​,

Notably, in practice, some organisations and individuals arbitrarily publish food inspection information issued by non-qualified institutions to deceive consumers.

The Regulation stressed that a fine of up to RMB one million (US$142,000) would be imposed to offenders who deceive and mislead consumers.

In addition, the Regulation also emphasised the importance of strengthening food safety quality education for consumers.

China will incorporate food safety knowledge into national quality education, popularise the scientific knowledge of food safety as well as legal knowledge, and enhance food safety awareness of the whole society, according to article five of the regulation.

The new regulations comprised 10 chapters, and 86 articles. Other notable revisions to the regulations include extending the license validity for food production and operation from three years to five years.

Preparation is key

Xin said firms should do an internal compliance check to assess whether they are following the food requirements imposed by China including this new regulation given that it provides more details and further clarifies some important issues arising from the Food Safety Law (lately amended in 2015) over the past years.

As the government seeks to further strengthen the law enforcement and implements the strictest supervision and penalties, it is important for firms to comply with all the detailed rules provided in the new regulation.

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