As a result of numerous scandals relating to food security, the Chinese government has recently enacted a bill tat has been submitted to the public at the end of last year and will come into force on June 1, 2014.
The current Food Safety Law (hereinafter FSL) has been in place for more than four years after taking effect on June 1, 2009.
The draft contains changes that highlight the liability of food companies and local governments, and strengthen the role of the public in ensuring food safety, among other aspects.
We will focus on some of the most important changes contained in the new regulation.
- Department involved in Food Affairs.
The current system is hampered by excessive bureaucracy: AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine), SAIF (State Administration for Industry and Commerce) and CFDA (China Food and Drug Administration) respectively control the food production, the circulation and the catering service. In order to avoid inefficiency and bureaucracy, the new regulation confers to CFDA the power of managing all the supply chain for food and the control procedures.
- License for producers in China
Nowadays, the entrepreneur who wants to produce food in China has to obtain three licenses: production license, circulation license and catering service license. According to the new system, only one license will be necessary, the “Food Production and Operation License”.
The only exception concerns the food additives operators: to avoid illegal use of additives, the producers need a special license to operate in addition to the license to produce additives.
- Responsibility of Food Producers for the health of consumers.
Food scandals in China were caused mainly by the lack of expertise in the treatment and in the production of food, so the legislator emphasizes the company’s responsibility to the health of consumers:
- The companies wishing to enter the food industry will need food safety management staff, equipped with nationally recognized qualification; this will prevent the possibility of sabotage by unfaithful employees and will ensure the knowledge of the operators;
- The new law provides for the creation of a national system of monitoring and storage of future food scandals; this new rule will allow the consumer to get information about the producer and the quality of the product.
- Categories of food under food production and processing supervision
Eight categories of food will be subject to food supervision procedures: infant formula, infant food, dairy products, meat products, Chinese liquor, beverages and edible vegetable oil.
- Special care for babies’ safety.
After the scandal of the milk powder in 2008 the public opinion pays extremely attention to the safety of the food products intended for children. The new regulation requires baby formula manufacturers in China to file the record of ingredients, formulae and labels with provincial FDAs and bans the Original Equipment Manufacturer manufacturing and sub-packaging of milk powder imported in large containers for retail.
- Online shopping of food
Chinese consumers make extensive use of Internet portals dedicated to the sale of consumer goods, including food. In order to ensure the safety of the fresh alimentary products purchased online, famous online trading platforms will need to get the Food Production and Operation License. Furthermore in case of violation of food safety law they should undertake joint liability and compensate affected consumers first.
The highest fine will be 30 times that of the revenue generated by illegal activities. The lowest compensation for damaging the consumers’ rights is 1,000 RMB.
Responsible of administrative violation will be caught under arrest; more serious cases will be subject to criminal law.
Those who have been sentenced for producing or selling unsafe food are never again allowed to produce or sell food products.
The government will also introduce awards for those who denounce incidents of counterfeit food.
The draft shows the importance of traceability of food products: it assures the consumer that the food comes from a licensed manufacturer and in the event of damage to health caused by counterfeit foods citizens can receive a reasonable compensation. In addition, the prediction of an archive of food scandals will prevent them from happening again in the future.
The provision of a reward for those who report misconduct should help to raise more public awareness about the importance of food safety.