New Food Safety Law in China

BEIJING (AP) - China's legislature enacted a tough new food
safety law Saturday, promising tougher penalties for makers of
tainted products in the wake of scandals that exposed serious flaws
in monitoring of the nation's food supply.

Five years in the making, the law consolidates hundreds of
disparate regulations and standards covering China's 500,000 food
processing companies, said Xin Chunying, a vice chairman of the
legislative committee of the National People's Congress Standing

The law pays special attention to the issue of food additives that lay at the heart of last year's scandal involving infant
formula produced by the Sanlu dairy and other companies. No
additives will be allowed unless they can be proven both necessary
and safe, according to the law, which goes into effect June 1.

"The Sanlu scandal exposed a loophole in the system, and that's
why the new law is especially strict in this area," Xin said.

China's government has been trying to restore confidence in the
country's food supply ever since revelations in September that
formula was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. The
tainted milk is blamed in the deaths of at least six Chinese babies
and the sickening of nearly 300,000 others.

Previously, China's regulatory system had come under scrutiny
after exports of pet food ingredients killed and sickened pets in
North and South America. The chemical in the dangerous pet food was
the same as in the milk scandal - melamine.

In response to those scandals, a draft of the food safety law
was submitted for its first reading by China's legislature in
December 2007.

The law also calls for a monitoring and supervision system, a
set of national standards on food safety, severe punishment for
offenders, and a food recall system. It will also create a
"high-level coordination and guidance" body, Xin said,
streamlining food regulation procedures by cutting the number of
agencies involved by more than half.

China's current system of splitting food safety responsibilities
among many different agencies has resulted in uneven enforcement
and confusion, the U.N. said in a report late last year.

Toughened penalties under the law include fines, cancellation of
licenses and punitive damages up to 10 times the value of products
implicated. Companies and individuals can also be held liable for
medical and other compensation as well as face criminals charges

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