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June 8, 2011

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Food firms breaking additive rules face being shut down

LOCAL food manufacturers using additives illegally face being shut down and having their business licenses revoked, under a proposed amendment to city food safety regulations.

Shanghai legislators said yesterday that using food additives inappropriately, adding inedible materials to products and recycling food that is past its sell-by date to make new items should be criminal offences.

Companies breaking these regulations and producing unqualified food valued at under 10,000 yuan (US$1,542) would be fined between 2,000 yuan and 50,000 yuan.

Those whose produce is worth 10,000 yuan and over would be fined between five and 10 times the actual value.

Companies guilty of serious violations would be forced to close down and have their licenses revoked, according to the draft.

However, some legislators feel these measures are not tough enough. Ye Xin, a deputy to the Shanghai People's Congress, questioned whether they would act as a sufficient deterrent.

"The punishment should be severe enough to make food producers not dare to break the law," said Ye.

Zhang Ling, an official with the SPC, said the clauses on additives were added in the wake of the recent recycled buns scandal in the city.

A local company used buns that were past their sell-by dates to produce new ones. They also added dyes, which is prohibited.

Ji Xiaodong, a lawmaker, proposed that food companies using additives should publish a list of items.

Some 6,000 local eateries were required to detail the names and quantities of food additives they used in hot pot, home-made beverages and flavorings by the end of last month.

The draft also encourages stores and markets to put up eye-catching notices to tell customers when food items are nearing their sell-by dates.

And they will be required to check documentation and keep records when purchasing food, additives and other food-related products from suppliers.

Individuals who provide information about food safety problems should be rewarded, according to the draft.

Local industrial and commercial authorities yesterday encouraged people to report food production concerns on the local consumers' hotline 12315.

The Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said people can report cases of food additives being used incorrectly and the sale of expired or rotten food.

Reports of food containing heavy metals or pesticide residue are also encouraged.

"With the public's help, we'll uncover more food safety issues," said Chen Zuyao, director of the food management department of the bureau.

The bureau has also hired more than 6,370 food safety supervisors.


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