China’s top court is demanding heavy penalties for people who break food safety laws due to come into effect on October 1.
The Supreme People’s Court released a circular yesterday stressing that those selling food online via their own websites should be considered wholly liable, while those who run markets, rent out counters and organize trade fairs but fail in their legal duties should be held jointly liable if consumer rights and interests are infringed.
The circular also called for timely compensation.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, adopted an amendment to the 2009 Food Safety Law in April.
The revised law brings harsher civil, administrative and criminal penalties for offenders and their supervisors. Offenders face fines of up to 30 times the value of their products, up from 10 times.
The amendment specifies punishment for those in charge of production sites who turn a blind eye to illegal activities on their premises and suppliers who sell unlawful substances to producers while knowing that they will be added to food. Their revenue can be seized and they can be fined.
China has seen a number of food safety scandals in recent years, including clenbuterol in pork, recycled cooking oil, pork from sick pigs, medicine made with toxic gelatin and rat and fox meat passed off as fit for human consumption.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said yesterday that 652 officials were investigated for food safety protection misconduct from January 2014 to June this year.
The officials involved in 429 cases are largely charged with dereliction of duty, abuse of power, embezzlement and taking bribes, said the SPP’s Huo Yapeng.
It is difficult to detect officials’ malpractice, but such crimes posed a huge threat to public health, said Huo.
Prosecutors across the country have tightened supervision over procedures such as licensing and approving use of additives in a bid to crack down on illegal activities by food safety watchdogs.