Recently, it is widely reported that a tenfold compensation judgment against Supermarket Metro has been delivered for its failure to label additives as required by relevant standards.

As reported, Mr. Su, a consumer in Jiangsu, filed a lawsuit against Supermarket Metro ("Metro") before People’s Court of Wuzhong District Suzhou (the "Court") based on the fact that the chemical composition of aspartame of the instant jellyfish he bought from Metro was not specified in the ingredients list on the package as required by governing national standards and PRC Food Safety Law ( “FSL”), and thus claimed for a refund of his payment and tenfold compensation of such payment according to Article 96 of FSL. Though Metro defended itself by insisting that physical damage is the precondition of compensation according to Article 96 of FSL, the Court refused to accept it and ruled in Mr. Su’s favor. According to the Court: i) the act adding aspartame into food products but not indicating phenylalanine as required is a violation of Article 20 of the FSL with regard to food safety standards, and accordingly the products so made shall be regarded as failed to meet national food safety standards; and ii) Metro, the food products seller, who is responsible to examine suppliers’ licenses, quality certificates and other labeling documents but failed to do so, shall be deemed as selling unqualified food products deliberately. 

HaoLiWen compliance team herby would like to draw your (especially food products producers’ and sellers’ ) attention to following points:

  1. Food products being produced or sold shall comply to relevant food safety standards both in substance and in form, otherwise such action may be identified as producing or selling unqualified food products;
  2. While a seller might defend itself by proving its ignorance of the fact that food products are unqualified, a producer almost has no defense provided it is unable to prove its products were satisfying food safety standards at the time delivery to seller;
  3. The applicability of tenfold compensation has nothing to do with whether the buyer is aware of the unqualified status of the products (or whether he or she takes counterfeiting as a profession), or whether any actual physical damage caused.