China Passes Food Safety Law
China gets a badly needed food safety law, but critics say freer media and
better enforcement are also necessary.
A Chinese shopper inspects Sanlu brand milk powder at a supermarket in northeast
China's Liaoning province, Sept. 13, 2008.
HONG KONG—China’s food security remains “grim” after a series of high-profile
contamination cases, the Chinese Ministry of Health said, following passage of a
new food-safety law aimed at the country’s half-million food processing
The Chinese legislature on Saturday passed a new food-safety law, effective June
1, setting quality and safety standards and systems for regulation and
The law aims to streamline hundreds of disparate regulations and standards
covering China’s 500,000 food processing companies.
The core problem for China’s food safety is that China’s media have no freedom
at all when covering food safety issues."
But critics said freer media and stepped-up enforcement are also essential.
“At present, China’s food-security situation remains grim with high risks and
contradictions,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
It said the government cannot afford “even the slightest relaxation over
A draft law was approved in principle in 2007 following scandals involving
unsafe toothpaste, seafood, and pet food.
But milk powder tainted with the industrial chemical melamine last year killed
at least six children and sickened some 300,000, forcing product recalls around
The new law won’t solve all food safety issues, experts said.
Liu Xiaoyuan, a Beijing-based lawyer, downplayed its impact, saying China’s real
shortfall lies in enforcement.
“We have regulatory bodies already. What matters now is how you regulate and
implement the rules. If you don’t enforce the regulations and rules, all
regulatory bodies exist in name only,” Liu said in an interview.
Zhou Qing, author of the 2007 book What Else Can We Eat? An Investigative Report
on China’s Food Safety, said freer media would also help.