In order to strengthen the supervision of food safety in China, the National People's Congress published the "People's Republic of China Food Safety Law (Revised Amendment)" ("First Revised Amendment") for public comment on its official website in June 2014. Earlier, in October 2013, the "People's Republic of China Food Safety Law (Amendment)" ("Amendment") was published for comment by the State Council. Based on views of the members of the National People's Congress, the "People's Republic of China Food Safety Law (The Second Revised Amendment)" ("Second Revised Amendment") was published in December 2014. Compared to the First Revised Amendment, mainly drafted by the government, the Second Revised Amendment incorporates public views and suggestions. As a result, the Second Revised Amendment is more considerate towards consumer rights and operators' behavior. This newsletter reviews the highlights of the three Amendments to the People's Republic of China Food Safety Law and discusses the new provisions of the Second Revised Amendment.
I. Strengthening the supervision system
- In the food production process, the enterprise shall control key matters such as the purchase of raw materials, food storage and food inspection.
- In the food circulation process, the wholesale enterprise shall establish a sales record system.
- In catering services, catering service providers have the obligation to verify the source of raw material.
- Improving the food tracking system. The First Revised Amendment stipulates that business operators shall ask for receipts and maintain records of purchased goods. It also provides a tracking system for food and agricultural products.
- Strengthening the supervision of food safety: The current decentralized supervision system is replaced by a more centralized system in which the food and drug administration is responsible for supervision of food production, circulation and catering services, strengthening the supervision of food safety.
II. Strengthening liability for online food traders
- Registration and review
The providers of online food trading platforms shall register the real name of the food trader and review his permit.
- Joint and several liability
If the providers of online food trading platforms are unable to provide real names, addresses and valid contact methods of the food dealer, they shall be jointly and severally liable for the loss of the consumers.
III. Regulation of the health food industry
- Regulation of raw materials
The list of materials that can be used in health food production and the list of functions that the health food producer may declare shall be made and issued by a specialized department.
- Records and registration
Registration of health food products with the food and drug administration is required. The Second Revised Amendment stipulates that some health food products, such as the initially imported health food supplying vitamins, minerals and other nutrients shall only be recorded.
IV. Tightened supervision of baby food
- The obligation of recordation and inspection.
The producer of baby food is obliged to record the infant formula and to inspect the finished products before they leave the factory.
- The liability of the parties
The First Revised Amendment provides that enterprises cannot use the same formula as other enterprises for infant formula. The Second Revised Amendment stipulates that enterprises are not allowed to use the same formula for multiple of their brands.
V. Introduction of rules on genetically modified food
Packages of genetically modified food products shall be labeled and the information on the label shall be accurate.
- Strict punishment
If the labels are not in compliance with the law, the producers will be imposed a fine of more than 5 times but less than 10
times of the value of the product, or the permit may be revoked.
VI. Strengthening sanctions
- Joint and several liability
Where business operators know that food producers provide consumers with defective food products which infringe consumers rights, but still provide the food producers business premises or other assistance, the business operators bear several and joint liability along with the food producers.
- Increased fines
The Second Revised Amendment provides that the food and drug supervision and administration departments shall impose a fine of more than 15 times but less than 30 times the amount of the value of the illegal acts in the production of food additives and infant food, if the value is more than?10,000. The Second Revised Amendment increases the fine amount, as the First Revised Amendment only imposes fines of 5 to 10 times the value of the illegal acts.
- Minimum compensation
Besides claiming damages, a consumer may require the producer of food not conforming to food safety standards or the seller knowingly selling food not conforming to the food safety standards to pay 10 times the value of the product or 3 times the loss caused by the non-conforming product. If the compensation is less than￥1000, the consumer may still claim￥1000.
The three Food Safety Law Amendments reflect the government's determination of establishing the "strictest food safety system" as well as the government's response to pressing social issues, such as the safety problems of online food stores, health food, infant formula, and genetically modified food. The Second Revised Amendment is still welcoming comments until January 19, 2015. Comments can be submitted either via mail to the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee (Qianmen West Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, No. 1 Postal Code: 100805), or online on the National People's Congress website (www.npc.gov.cn). We will keep track of the amendments and will provide updates on the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.