(Nov. 4, 2008) On October 23, 2008, China's legislature began review of a stricter draft food safety law, following criticism from the United Nations over the country's slow response to the recent tainted milk scandal (see: China: Health and Safety – Dairy Product Quality and Safety Regulations, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Nov. 3, 2008, available at http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_762_text). The draft law had been approved in principle in October 2007, in the aftermath of “a raft of scandals involving unsafe toothpaste, seafood and pet food, among other products.” (China Reviews Tougher Food Safety Laws amid UN Criticism, TIMETURK, Oct. 23, 2008, available at http://en.timeturk.com/China-reviews-tougher-food-safety-laws-amid-UN-
criticism-10393-haberi.html; China Approves Draft Food Safety Law, CHINA DAILY, Oct. 31, 2007, available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-10/31/content_6220838.htm.)
Public comment on the draft law was solicited on April 20, 2008; to that end, the text was published on the website of the National People's Congress. After May 20, it was submitted to the legislature for further deliberation. (China Drafts Food Safety Law That Boosts Fines, Could Imprison Offenders for Life, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Apr. 22, 2008, available at http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/22/news/China-Tainted-Products.php.) The draft food safety law covers the following topics, aside from general and supplementary provisions: surveillance and assessment of food safety risks; food safety standards; inspection and testing of food; food production and trade; food import and export; prevention of and response to food safety incidents; supervision and administration; legal liabilities. (Translation of New PRC Food Safety Law Draft 12 May 2008 [links to bilingual text of the draft law], EU-CHINA TRADE PROJECT, http://www.euchinawto.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=230&Itemid=1 (last visited Oct. 28, 2008).)
According to the draft law, “producers of substandard food products face fines, the confiscation of their incomes and revocation of production certificates,” and possible prison terms ranging from three years to life in more serious cases. (China Publishes Draft Regulation on Food Safety to Solicit Public Opinion (04/21/08), XINHUA, Apr. 20, 2008, available at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/567/t427529.htm.) Other provisions abrogate the system whereby local food oversight agencies could grant food producers exemptions from government quality inspections, compel local authorities “to issue recall orders to companies that do not proactively pull problem products from the market,” and strengthen measures “to prevent the improper use and misuse of food additives” (TIMETURK, supra). China's State Council (Cabinet) issued a White Paper on food quality and safety in August 2007 (Press Release, Information Office of the State Council, China's Food Quality and Safety (Aug. 2007) [in English], available at http://www.gov.cn/english/2007-08/17/content_720346.htm).