Zhang Yong reportedly told lawmakers at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that food safety is improving, but that recent problems show that “the situation remains severe.”
He said that the existing regulatory system is not effective, penalties are comparatively light, and it does not deter offenders.
Recent headlines in China and around the world have revealed shoddy practices such as injecting clenbuterol into pork, recycling cooking oil from leftovers in restaurant kitchens, and passing rat and fox meat off as mutton and beef. Reports that illegal additives have been used to grow bean spouts have prompted officials to seize large amounts of the product, and, in January, Walmart stores in China recalled donkey meat after it was found to contain fox DNA.
Due to a widely publicized scandal involving infant formula contaminated with melamine, a special provision was added to the proposed bill. Producers would have to test every batch of infant formula they make, conduct regular internal inspections, and submit reports to regulators.
The plan, Zhang indicated to lawmakers, is to amend current food safety regulations to make sure offenders face harsh civil, administrative and criminal penalties. Instead of being compensated for 10 times the price of any problematic food, under the new law, Chinese consumers would be able to collect three times the price of any loss they may suffer from food-related problems. Producer fines would go from 10 to 30 times the value of any substandard food products.
Government regulators would also face stiff punishment for violations under the more stringent law. Any official who fails to respond to a food safety emergency would be demoted or dismissed, and those caught abusing their power, neglecting their duty for personal gain, or found responsible for food safety coverups would face criminal penalties.© Food Safety News