1 Mar 2009

China approves food safety law

8:21 am on 1 March 2009

China has approved a long-awaited food safety law in a bid to end repeated scandals involving dangerous food products in the country.

The law has been in the works since October last year after a huge scandal erupted over contaminated milk which killed at least six children and made nearly 300,000 others ill.

The industrial chemical melamine had been added to watered-down milk to make it appear higher in protein.

Two people were sentenced to death in January over the scandal and the head of dairy firm Sanlu was sentenced to life in prison for "manufacturing and selling fake or substandard products."

China's official Xinhua news agency reports the new law will see the establishment of a monitoring and supervision system, a set of national standards on food safety, a recall system, and severe punishment for offenders.

Xinhua gave no further details of the content of the food safety law, but according to a previous report by the state-run agency, it would make health authorities directly responsible for approving additives in processed foods.

The agency also said it would prevent food safety authorities from issuing inspection exemptions to major food producers, as happened in the tainted milk scandal.

China's huge and poorly regulated food industry is regularly hit by scandals involving unsafe foods which harm public health and result in product recalls both at home and abroad.

The law was passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislature.