Shifting the Goal Posts on Food Safety in China

Article contributed by Paul O’Brien, China Food Regulatory Analyst with ChemLinked by REACH24H Consulting Group, who explains what China’s new food safety laws mean for the food industry.

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 food and beverage 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 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 in 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 law, which will serve as the framework for development of China's food safety infrastructure over the next several years.

In its new food safety law 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.

Here is a brief overview of key developments under the new laws:

• 154 articles as compared to 104 in the original law; emphasis on prevention and risk control
• Increased penalties for offenders
• Addition of new provisions and administrative measures for infant formula
• Revision of the Advertising Law – restricting advertising of tobacco and infant formula, as well as advertising targeting minors
• Addition of new measures for online food shopping
• Changes to Health Food regulation, including that concerning functional food ingredients and nutrient supplements
• Significant changes to keystone national standards to support the new Food Safety Law
• Mandatory implementation of traceability systems
• Importer validation of overseas manufacturers and future registration requirements for all overseas manufacturers

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.

For more information on any of the topics discussed within this article, please contact Paul O’Brien at

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