By Xinhua writers Yuan Ye and Wu Jing
BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature
approved the Food Safety Law on Saturday, providing a legal basis for the
government to strengthen food safety control "from the production line to the
The law, which goes into effect on June 1, 2009, will
enhance monitoring and supervision, toughen safety standards, recall substandard
products and severely punish offenders.
Wu Bangguo (C), chairman of the Standing
Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), presides over the
concluding meeting of the 7th meeting of the 11th NPC Standing Committee
in Beijing, on Feb. 28, 2009. The NPC Standing Committee, China's top
legislature, concluded its four-day session on Saturday, after approving
the food safety law, an amendment to the criminal law and the revised
insurance law. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing
Committee gave the green light to the intensively-debated draft law at the last
day of a four-day legislative session, following a spate of food scandals which
triggered vehement calls for overhauling China's current monitoring system.
Winning 158 out of 165 votes, the law said the State
Council, or Cabinet, would set 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 departments of health, agriculture, quality
supervision, industry and commerce administration will shoulder different
These would include risk evaluation, the making and
implementation of safety standards, and the monitoring of about 500,000 food
companies across China, as well as circulation sector.
The law draft had been revised several times since it
was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for the first reading in December
It had been expected to be voted by lawmakers last
October, but the voting was postponed for further revision following the tainted
dairy products scandal last September, in which at least six babies died and
290,000 others were poisoned.
"It actually took us five years to draft this law
since the State Council first made legislative recommendations in July 2004.It
has undergone intensive consideration, because it is so vital to every person,"
Xin Chunying, deputy director of the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative
Affairs Commission, said at a press briefing after the law was adopted.
She said although China had certain food quality
control systems in place for many years, lots of loopholes emerged in past
years, mainly due to varied standards, lack of sense of social responsibility
among some business people, too lenient punishment on violators and weakness in
testing and monitoring work.
China has a food hygiene law, which took effect in
1995, to regulate issues of food safety, but many lawmakers said it was too
outdated to meet the need of practice.
For example, the law is far from being adequate in
addressing the problem of pesticide residue in foodstuff.
According to the new law, China will set up
compulsory standards on food safety, covering a wide range from the use of
additives to safety and nutrition labels.
The law stipulates a ban on all chemicals and
materials other than authorized 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."
Health authorities are responsible for assessing and
approving food additives and regulating their usage.
Food producers must only use food additives and their
usage previously approved by authorities, on penalty of closure or revocation of
production licenses in serious cases, according to the law.
In the tainted dairy products scandal, melamine,
often used in the manufacture of plastics, was added to substandard or diluted
milk to make protein levels appear higher than they actually were.
"Melamine had never been allowed to be used as food
additive in China. Now the law makes an even clearer and stricter ban on it,"
She said the compulsory system to recall substandard
food, as written in the law, would also be effective in curbing food-related
Producers of edible farm products are required to
abide by food safety standards when using pesticide, fertilizer, growth
regulators, veterinary drugs, feedstuff and feed additives. They must also keep
farming or breeding records.
Offenders can face maximum fines which would be 10
times the value of sold products, compared with five times at present.
If businesses are found producing or selling a
substandard foodstuff, consumers can ask for financial compensation which is 10
times the price of the product. That's in addition to compensation for the harm
the product causes to the consumer.
For those whose food production licenses are revoked
due to illegal conducts, they will be banned from doing food business in the
following five years.
"This is a big step to increase penalties on law
violators," Xin said.
Another highlight of the law is that celebrities can
share responsibility for advertising for food products that are found to be
The law says all organizations and individuals who
recommend substandard food products in ads will face joint liability for damages
This has been a hot topic in China where film stars,
singers and celebrities are often paid to appear in ads of food products.
"The provisions were added out of concern over fake
advertisements, which contained misleading information. Many of the
advertisements featured celebrities," said Liu Xirong, vice chairman of the NPC
Several Chinese celebrities had advertised for
products of the Sanlu Group, a company at the epicenter of the tainted dairy
product scandal. They were vehemently criticized after thousands of babies were
poisoned by the Sanlu formula.
Many people posted online demands for them to
apologize to and compensate families of the sickened babies. But others argued
that it was unfair to blame the celebrities as Sanlu had legal documents to
prove its products safe.
On tonic food, a booming industry with an estimated
annual output value of 100 billion yuan (14.62 billion U.S. dollars) in China,
the law prohibits any claims related to prevention or cure of illness on the
product's label and instruction leaflets.
China's top legislature closes session, adopts food safety law
BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, concluded its four-day session on Saturday, after approving the food safety law, an amendment to the criminal law and the revised insurance law.
President Hu Jintao signed decrees to publish the new law and the two amended laws. That needs to happen for them to take effect. Full story
China adopts law to strengthen food safety control, vows to punish offenders
BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature approved the Food Safety Law on Saturday, providing a legal basis for the government to strengthen food safety control "from the production line to the dining table."
The law, which goes into effect on June 1, 2009, will enhance monitoring and supervision, toughen-up safety standards, recall substandard products and severely punish offenders. Full story