CHINA - Food companies should start withdrawing substandard food products that present a serious threat to health as soon as they are discovered, according to a draft document released by China's top food safety watchdog on Wednesday.
Plans for recalls should be submitted to the authorities within 24 hours, said the China Food and Drug Administration.
The draft contains proposals on how food product recalls should be supervised and managed.
The authority posted it on the website of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office and invited the public to comment and make suggestions.
The draft makes clear that food producers and businesses bear the primary responsibility for ensuring food safety.
It says they should record detailed information about the entire manufacturing process and retain documents and files to ensure that recalls proceed smoothly.
Immediate recalls should be ordered when potentially harmful food products are found either through internal checks or government inspections.
Companies should halt production and inform local safety watchdogs, business partners and the public.
The draft divides recalls into urgent cases and standard cases depending on the urgency and severity of the risks.
While plans to withdraw products in the first category should be submitted to local food safety departments within 24 hours, the time limit for less urgent cases is 72 hours.
A series of food safety scandals over the past few years has caused widespread concern.
The most recent case involved allegations that Shanghai Husi Food Co supplied expired meat to fast-food chains.
Six senior executives of the company have been arrested, and Shanghai vowed it would impose a zero-tolerance policy on food safety crimes.
"Food safety is an important issue and greatly affects people's health and lives," said Gu Zhenhua, deputy director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration. "Stricter supervision should be carried out."
Some cities are merging their various quality watchdogs to improve efficiency.
The Tianjin municipal government merged three departments - the Industrial and Commercial Administration, Quality and Technical Inspection, and Food and Drug Administration - into one organisation.
The combined body, the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration, is the first provincial-level department of its kind in the country, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Lin Lijun, the head of the administration, said the creation of a unified team will optimize the supervision of food safety.