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China enacts law on food safety

CHINA'S top legislature approved the Food Safety Law yesterday, giving the government the legal framework to govern food safety control "from the production line to the dining table."

The law, which comes into effect on June 1, will toughen safety standards, enhance monitoring and supervision, allow recalls of substandard products and severely punish offenders.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee passed the intensely debated draft law at a four-day session following a spate of food scandals that triggered vehement calls for overhauling China's current monitoring system.

The law, which won 158 out of the 165 votes, stipulates that 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 responsibilities.

These would include risk evaluation, the setting and implementation of safety standards, and the monitoring of food production and distribution.

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 approved food additives for their approved purpose, on penalty of closure or revocation of production licenses in serious cases.

Producers of edible farm products are required to abide by standards on the use of pesticides, fertilizers, growth regulators, veterinary drugs, feedstuff and feed additives. They must also keep farming or breeding records.

Offenders could face maximum fines of 10 times the value of sold products. If businesses are found producing or selling a substandard foodstuff, consumers can ask for financial compensation of 10 times the price of the product.


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