China’s amended Food Safety Law now in effect

As American food producers patiently await the final rules developed under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), China’s amended Food Safety Law became effective today—October 1. China has long been a hotbed where food safety scandals run rampant and this new legislation marks the first time in six years that the country is revising its Food Safety Law.

According to a recent article, the new legislation, enforced by the China Food and Drug Administration, will mean stiffer civil and criminal punishments for those found to be in violation. Companies that violate the law will be restricted in terms of future loans, taxation, bidding and land use as well.

Another new facet of the law is that rewards will be increased for those who blow the whistle on food safety violations within China’s borders. There will also be more supervision of food sold online and to raise public awareness, high profile food safety cases might be publicized on live TV, the article states.

In addition, regulations on the supervision and inspection of food producers and operators is part of the amended law along with a variety of other topics including, hygienic practices for food additives, supervision of imported food inspections, audit and inspection of overseas companies, new food recall requirements and regulation of food advertising, to name a few.

China has experienced a number of food safety scandals over the years from baby formula being laced with powdered melamine in 2004, to the alleged use of carcinogens used in frying oil in 2007 and the recycling out-of-date food in 2013. These, along with other cases have ultimately caused loss the confidence from consumers both domestically and internationally.

The article goes on to explain that a number of factors can be contributing for the country’s susceptibility to unsafe food including the 1.4 billon inhabitants (the largest population in the world) and the stress that comes along with creating and providing them with enough food. In addition, there is a high percentage of Chinese citizens who have no choice but to grow their own food, a practice that goes unregulated and compared to China’s population, there is not nearly enough space for proper farming, nor are there enough food processors to keep up with demand.

The U.S. has also been known to block imports from China, particularly if items do not meet certain domestic food safety standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited poor labeling, drug residues, filth and unsafe additives are reasons for turning away food products originating from China.

Although the country’s amended food safety laws are welcome, there is skepticism regarding whether or not the changes will make an impact. The last Food Safety Law initiated in 2009, some argue, did not help to alleviate China’s food safety problems, the article states.

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