China passes new food safety law

February 28th, 2009 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Feb 28 (Xinhua) China’s top legislature Saturday approved a new food safety law, promising stern action against makers of tainted food products in the wake of scandals that have fuelled demands for overhauling the country’s ineffective food monitoring system.
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, which approves policies and laws proposed by the ruling Communist Party, said the new law would help ensure food safety “from the production line to dining table”.

The law, which goes into effect June 1, will enhance monitoring and supervision, toughen up safety standards, recall substandard products and severely punish offenders.

It calls for setting up a state-level food safety commission to oversee the entire food monitoring system, whose lack of efficiency has long been blamed for repeated scandals.

The law stipulated a ban on all chemicals and materials other than authorised additives in food production, saying that “only those items proved to be safe and necessary in food production are allowed to be listed as food additives”.

The law calls for tough penalties, including cancellation of licenses and punitive damages up to 10 times the value of the product implicated. Companies and individuals can also be held liable for medical and other compensation as well as face criminals charges.

The law also targets advertising, after several celebrities had appeared in television commercials or milk powder sold by Sanlu Group, the dairy firm that was at the centre of last year’s biggest milk scandal that caused the death of six infants and sickened almost 300,000.

Individuals or organisations advertising for sub-standard food products would face joint liability for damages incurred, according to the law.

The law has been revised several times since it was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for the first reading in December 2007. In April 2008, it was opened to public scrutiny and more than 11,000 comments were made to the lawmaking body.

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