(Apr. 3, 2009) On February 28, 2009, the People's Republic of China Food Safety Law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Effective from June 1, 2009, the new Food Safety Law, containing 104 articles, will repeal the 57-article Food Hygiene Law of 1995.
The Food Safety Law contains ten chapters: (1) General Provisions; (2) Monitoring and Assessment of Food Safety Risks; (3) Food Safety Standards; (4) Food Production and Business Operations; (5) Food Inspection; (6) Import and Export of Food; (7) Handling of Food Safety Accidents; (8) Supervision and Administration; (9) Legal Liabilities; and (10) Supplementary Provisions. Highlights of the new Law are as follows:
1. Food Safety Commission to be created: According to the Law, a high-level coordinating body on food safety, the Food Safety Commission, will be established by the State Council, which will prescribe the new agency's functions (art. 4).
2. Food safety standards to be formulated: The health administration under the State Council will consolidate the existing mandatory standards applied in the food industry into uniform national food safety standards (art. 21). The local governments may formulate local food safety standards only in those areas where no national standards exist (art. 24).
3. Punitive damages prescribed: If products fail to conform to the safety standards, consumers may claim up to ten times the price of the products in addition to the claim of actual damages (art. 96).
4. Food recall system established: Where any food is found not to conform to the food safety standards, the food producer is obligated to promptly stop its production; recall all of that food already placed on the market; notify the related producers, business operators, and consumers; and record the recall and notification information (art. 53). The business operators are also obligated to stop selling such products and perform the same notification and record-keeping procedures (art. 53).
5. Food inspection exemption prohibited: The former food inspection exemption system has been abolished in the wake of the recent food safety scandals in China. The Law once again clearly prohibits the government food safety administration from granting exemptions from safety inspections (art. 60).
(Food Safety Law [in Chinese], Central People's Government of the PRC official website, http://www.gov.cn/flfg/2009-02/28/content_1246367.htm (last visited Mar. 18, 2009).)
The State Council circulated a notice on March 4, 2009, requiring strict implementation of the Food Safety Law. It states that the Law is “of great importance in regulating food production and business operations, preventing food safety incidents, and enhancing food safety control … and the overall level of China's food safety.” (State Council Notice on Serious Implementation of the Food Safety Law [in Chinese], Central People's Government of the PRC official website, Sept. 19, 2008, available at http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2009-03/06/content_1252629.htm.)