Food Safety: what do you eat in China?

Food Safety: what do you eat in China?

Published on August 23, 2014

As a result of numerous food-related scandals, a new bill came into force on June 1st, 2014, highlighting the liability of food companies and local governments, and strengthen the role of the public in ensuring food safety. Herein the most important changes contained in the new regulations.

(i) Interested Parties
Excessive bureaucracy hampers the current system; AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine), SAIF (State Administration for Industry and Commerce) and CFDA (China Food and Drug Administration) control the food production, the circulation and the catering service respectively. In order to avoid inefficiency and bureaucracy, the new regulation confers to the CFDA the power of managing the entire food supply chain and related control procedures.

(ii) Licenses
Nowadays, an entrepreneur wanting to produce food in China needs three licenses; a production license, circulation license and catering service license. According to the new system, only one license will be necessary, the “Food Production and Operation License”. The only exception concerns food additives operators; to avoid illegal use of additives, producers need a special license to operate in addition to the license for production.

(iii) Responsibility
Food scandals are caused mainly by lack of expertise in food production, hence companies in the food industry will in future need food safety management staff, equipped with a nationally recognized qualification, to prevent the possibility of sabotage and ensure the necessary knowledge among operators.

The new law further provides for the creation of a national system for monitoring future scandals and the storage of food to allow consumer access to information as to the quality of product.

(iv) Categories of food
Eight categories of food will be subject to food supervision procedures; infant formula, infant food, dairy products, meat products, Chinese liquor, beverages and edible vegetable oil.

(v) Ensuring Babies’ Safety
In response to a scandal in 2008, the new regulation requires baby formula manufacturers in China to file a record of ingredients, formula and labels with provincial FDA's and bans manufacturing by Original Equipment Manufacturers and sub-packaging of milk powder imported in large containers for retail.

(vi) Online Purchase
Chinese consumers make extensive use of Internet portals dedicated to the sale of consumer goods, including food. In order to ensure the safety of fresh alimentary products purchased online, famous online trading platforms will need obtain a Food Production and Operation License. Furthermore, in the case of a violation of food safety law they should undertake joint liability with the responsibility to first compensate affected consumers.

(vii) Penalties
The lowest compensation for damaging consumers’ rights will be ¥1,000 while the highest fine will be 30 times that of the revenue generated by illegal activities. The responsible party will be placed under arrest, and grave cases will be subject to criminal proceedings. Those sentenced for producing or selling unsafe food will be banned from the food sector. The government also introduced awards for those who report incidents of counterfeit food.

The draft shows the importance of the traceability of food products; it aims to reassure consumers that food comes from licensed manufacturers and that in the event of damage caused by counterfeit foods citizens receive reasonable compensation. In addition, the prediction of an archive of food scandals will prevent them from happening again in the future. The provision of a reward for those who report misconduct should help to raise public awareness about the importance of food safety in China.


This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness.

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