In the wake of a number of highly-publicised food safety scandals in recent years, the Chinese government is slated to implement broader and more stringent food safety requirements before the end of 2015.
The new food safety regulations, which were approved by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress in April 2015 following a drafting process of more than three years, significantly broadens the scope of food products covered under Chinese law.
Perhaps most important addition is the inclusion under the new regulations of infant milk formulas and other infant food products. The new regulations include a requirement that manufacturers of infant formulas register their product formulations with China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), and a ban on any product-related advertising that claims that such products are a substitute for breast milk. These changes are viewed by many as a partial reaction to the death of six infants in 2008 attributed to milk contaminated with melamine, a harmful industrial chemical.
Also included under the scope of China’s new food safety regulations are special requirements for Internet service providers that permit the sale or distribution of food products on their networks. Food e-commerce is a big business in China, with an estimated 45 million people regularly buying food online. Under the new food safety regulations, operators of online marketplaces will be required to verify for consumers the identity of online food vendors, and will be required to compensate consumers if they are unable to supply vendor contact information.
Aside from the inclusion of additional products under the scope of protection, China’s new food safety regulations also impose larger financial penalties and more strict consequences for failure to comply with those requirements, up to and including administrative detention for offenders. The regulations also provide consumers with certain protections, including the right to demand financial reparation of up to three times any loss they experience as a result of exposure to noncompliant food products.
China’s new food safety regulations become effective on 1 October 2015. Food producers and distributors are encouraged to promptly investigate the potential impact of the new regulations and take steps now to minimise interruptions to market access.