The “People’s Republic of China Food Safety Law (Revised Amendment)” (“Revised Amendment“) was submitted for public comment via National People’s Congress’ official website in June 2014. The first Amendment is the “People’s Republic of China Food Safety Law (“Amendment“), which was submitted to the State Council for comments in late 2013. The State Council received numerous comments and proposals and thus made further modifications to the Amendment. Compared with the Amendment, the content of the Revised Amendment is much more comprehensive, it further increases fines for food safety violations, regulates health food advertising and record management, clarifies food safety training requirements, and specifically addresses infant formula production safety, all of which reflect the growing attention paid by the state to food safety issues. This newsletter will discuss the differences between the Amendment and the Revised Amendment and the underlying rationale behind the differences:
State becomes the main body to establish the food tracking system
The Amendment merely provides that food production enterprises should establish a food tracking management system. In addition to the food production enterprises, the Revised Amendment also establishes the state as the responsible body for developing the tracking system. The intervention of public power once more reflects the state’s deep concern for food safety.
Canceled incentives for small food vendors
The Amendment does not provide any detailed provisions for small food vendors and it cancels policies for encouraging food vendors to move to markets. However, the law authorizes the Standing Committee of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities to develop specific regulations. The underlying reason for this, is that it is difficult to develop uniform requirements for small vendors at a national level
Clarify training content for food safety management personnel and strengthen the training regulatory regime
The Revised Amendment requires that food safety management personnel understands essential food safety laws and regulations. Moreover, the Food and Drug Administrative Department is authorized to use specific supervisory mechanisms, including random inspections, publishing inspection results, and developing and publishing a food safety management personnel training guide and examination method. The detailed provisions developed at the national level highlight the importance of regulating food safety.
Regulate the health food industry
The Amendment states that health food should not cause any harm to health or life. The Revised Amendment proposes detailed registration and record management procedures for health food. For example, health food advertisements can only be published or broadcasted after approval documents are obtained. The great emphasis on health food reflects the problems China faces in this area.
Increased oversight of infant milk
In addition to the Amendment’s provisions that ban the infant formula production outsourcing to other factories and OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers), the Revised Amendment also demands a quality management system, requiring for example, that infant formula and raw materials are recorded, as to further ensure the quality of infant formula products.
Resignation and responsibility interview systems
A resignation system is established which concerns officials directly responsible for food safety. Serious and continuous occurrence of food safety incidents and of accidents that do not receive proper treatment or prompt reaction are likely to lead to the resignation of officials that are directly involved. In addition, responsibility interviews with officials and food producers and operators are conducted where threats to food safety are discovered.
The Revised Amendment further increases the penalties for food production operators. For example, the penalty for illegal production and management of food and food additives worth 10,000 Yuan, has increased from two to five times the total ill-gotten gains, to five to ten times the ill-gotten gains. Further, market operators and trade-fair organizers who allow food operators to enter the food market without obtaining permission, as well as third party online trading platforms for network operators who fail to fulfill their obligation to report, will face a potential fine by the Food and Drug Administrative Department of between 50,000 to 200,000 Yuan. Under the Amendment, the fine was only between 2,000 to 20,000 Yuan.
In summary, the Revised Amendment increases the accountability of governmental officials and business operators for food safety. Food producers and operators should examine the revised provisions quickly. If any provision is considered to be unreasonable, comments can be submitted either through sending the comments to the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee (Qianmen West Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, No. 1 Postal Code: 100805), or by directly commenting on the National People’s Congress website (www.npc.gov.cn). The final date for comments submission is July 31, 2014