China passes food safety law after melamine scandal
BEIJING - China's legislature enacted a new food safety law Saturday, promising tougher regulations and severe punishment for makers of bad products after scandals over tainted products showed serious flaws in the food industry.
The National People's Congress approved the law, which will ensure food safety "from the production line to the dining table," China's Xinhua News Agency said.
The law goes into effect June 1.
The law calls for a monitoring and supervision system, a set of national standards on food safety, severe punishment for offenders and a food recall system, Xinhua said. It will also impose strict supervision over additives.
China's government has been trying to restore confidence in the country's food system since the disclosure in September that infant 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.
China's current system of splitting food safety responsibilities among many different agencies has resulted in uneven enforcement and confusion, the United Nations said in a report late last year.
The food safety bill will create a "high-level co-ordination and guidance" body, China Daily newspaper said.
Food regulation procedures would be streamlined by cutting the number of agencies involved by more than one-half.
China's current system of splitting food safety responsibilities among many different agencies has resulted in uneven enforcement and confusion, the UN said in a report late last year.