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Food law in effect after scandals break

6 March 2009 617 views No Comment

China’s poor track record in food production led to death and illness, pushing the need for new laws

China’s track record with health and safety surrounding agriculture, food and production industries has been less than stellar, particularly this past year.

With milk scandals killing 13 children and leaving somewhere around 300,000 ill, and with tainted pork making 70 sick and causing many other health-related calamities, adjustments to laws surrounding food production were imperative.

In light of recent events, a law was enacted on Saturday by China’s top legislative body that includes tougher penalties for the makers of products that are tainted, along with legislation regarding production, the use of additives and quality-control measures for China’s approximately 500,000 food processing firms.

Last week, 70 people became ill after eating pork contaminated with an illegal animal feed additive, as reported by China’s state media. It is the most recent in a string of scandals involving food processing companies’ lax safety and quality-control standards.

The new law will include stricter guidelines for food additives. This legislation comes in the wake of China’s milk scandal, where milk from the dairy company Sanlu Group, tainted with the product melamine, made some 300,000 sick and killed 13 young children. Inclusion of the additives will not be allowed in any food products without them first being proven safe.

The new law is years in the making, following scandal after scandal, some even including pet foods. The first draft of the law was proposed in December 2007. Repercussions for breaking the new law include suspension or cancellation of licences and punitive damages up to ten times the value of products implicated.

Much like the two people who were sentenced to death over the Sanlu dairy milk scandal, the law also claims that individuals and companies can be held liable for compensation including medical costs and could possibly face criminal charges should they not adhere to the laws.

A body for food regulation, a recall system, an outline for punishment and deterrence and a supervision system will hopefully lead to safer food production standards, according to the Chinese government.

Late last year, a report by the United Nations claimed China’s original system of food safety was to split responsibility of regulation among different agencies, which it claimed resulted in uneven enforcement and confusion.

The stricter laws, which will attempt to protect China’s growing population from tainted food, will come into effect June 1 of this year, with hopes that the people of China will have a revived optimism towards their food production companies and that the tragedies of the past will stop.

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