Food-safety law enacted in China

China enacted a strict food-safety law over the weekend, promising tougher penalties for producers of tainted products, Reuters reported. The law consolidates hundreds of regulations and standards covering the country’s 500,000 food-processing companies. In recent years, several food scares have exposed serious flaws in the monitoring of China’s food supply.


Even with the new law, the food-safety situation in China “remains grim”, risky and contradictory, the health ministry said, adding that it cannot afford “even the slightest relaxation over supervision”.


The new law pays special attention to food additives, which were at the heart of a 2008 tainted milk scandal that saw at least six babies die and another 300,000 made ill after consuming infant formula produced by the Sanlu dairy and other companies. No additives – such as the industrial chemical melamine — will be allowed unless they can be proven to be both necessary and safe.


Also, the law calls for a monitoring and supervision system, a set of national safety standards, severe punishment for offenders and a product-recall system. Companies and individuals can be held liable for medical and other compensation, as well as face criminals charges.


Agricultural production in China is scattered and often outdated, making assurances of quality and safety of food difficult. The country has 450,000 registered food production and processing enterprises, but an estimated 350,000 employ just 10 people or fewer.


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