Logistics

China toughens food safety laws

10:24 SGT June 12, 2017
China
For many companies, they now need to review how they process foodstuffs and innovate their production processes.

Hit by numerous food safety scandals in recent years, China tightens its laws, implementing stricter food ingredient and processing regulations. 
Paul O’Brien provides some food for thought.

As of 1 October 2015, China’s new food safety laws, which are widely considered some of its toughest food laws ever, came into effect. For the F&B industry in China, these new laws — revisions to the 2009 Food Safety Law — mean tougher and more stringent requirements, as well as tougher penalties for offenders.

But why has there been a requirement for these new food safety laws?

In the past few years, China has been plagued by numerous food safety scandals including counterfeit infant formula, the melamine crisis, the smuggling of rotten meat and more recently, fake rice. The Chinese government had to step in, in this instance, due to the human factor — the risk caused to consumers — and because the reputation of the government and its regulators was also at stake.

China’s demand for imported foods and the growth in international food trade has meant that its supervisory capacities are being overtaxed and regulatory authorities are being tested beyond their abilities. With the financial stakes set high, the cracks in China’s food supervisory system offer a mouth-watering opportunity for all types of food criminals looking to exploit demand.

China’s new laws, announced in April 2015 following adoption of amendments by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), are widely considered its toughest food safety laws ever.

Some of the changes include centralising supervision of food production and trading activities under the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), greater focus on risk prevention, stricter food ingredient and processing regulations, and tougher penalties for violations.

For many companies, this means that in some cases they will need to review how they process foodstuffs, innovate their production processes, and also how they apply better food safety testing measures at the production stage.

Beginning in earnest at the start of 2015, Chinese food safety policymakers have been working flat out to build a solid foundation for practical implementation of China’s food safety laws, which will serve as the framework for development of China’s food safety infrastructure over the next several years.

In its new food safety laws, China has finally clearly designated individual regulatory remit of the authorities involved in regulation of China’s food supply chain. The CFDA will now be responsible for China’s domestic food supply chain and AQSIQ* will be responsible for all external links relating to importation of food.

China has finally clearly designated individual regulatory remit of the authorities involved in regulation of China’s food supply chain. The CFDA will now be responsible for China’s domestic food supply chain and AQSIQ* will be responsible for all external links relating to importation of food.

The food safety scandals in China over the past few years have made the government and industry realise how serious the issue is and why tougher regulation is needed to tackle this.

China’s new food safety laws reflect this, and show how seriously this issue is being taken at the highest levels in the country — and needs to be taken across the Asia region.

*AQSIQ is a ministerial administrative organ directly under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in charge of national quality, metrology, entry-exit commodity inspection, entry-exit health quarantine, entry-exit animal and plant quarantine, import-export food safety, certification and accreditation, standardisation, as well as administrative law-enforcement.

Counterfeit infant formula and the melamine crisis are among the food scandals that had hit China in recent years.

The food safety scandals in China over the past few years have made the government and industry realise how serious the issue is and why tougher regulation is needed to tackle this.

Paul O’Brien is China Food Regulatory Analyst with ChemLinked by REACH24H Consulting Group.

Brief overview of key developments under the new laws:

1. Increased to 154 articles from 104 in the original law; emphasis on prevention and risk control.

2. Importer validation of overseas manufacturers and future registration requirements for all overseas manufacturers.

3. Increased penalties for offenders.

4. Addition of new provisions and administrative measures for infant milk formula.

5. Revision of the Advertising Law — restricting advertising of tobacco and infant milk formula, as well as advertising targeting minors.

6. Addition of new measures for online food shopping.

7.Changes to Health Food regulations, including that concerning functional food ingredients and nutrient supplements.

8. Significant changes to keystone national standards to support the new Food Safety Law.

9. Mandatory implementation of traceability systems.