Revision to law targets makers of baby formula

PHOTO: Revision to law targets makers of baby formula

Baby formula producers are likely to face tougher regulations amid rising public concerns over food safety, according to a draft amendment being reviewed by the country's top legislature.

Under the draft amendment to the Food Safety Law, food companies will be banned from contracting out baby milk powder products to other manufacturers. Violators could be fined 100,000 yuan (S$20,000) or lose their licenses in serious cases.

The draft states that baby food products must contain the nutritional elements needed for babies to grow and that food manufacturers must report the ingredients of their products to government supervisory authorities.

Baby food products, including milk and food additives, must meet national standards, according to the draft.

Food companies must also set up a checking system to ensure the quality of their products meets the standards, the draft states.

It is scheduled to be reviewed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee during its bi-monthly session being held from Monday to Friday.

It is the first time the law would be revised since it was introduced in June 2009. It is rare for a law to be amended after being in force for only five years.

To improve the efficiency of government work, food safety supervision will be handled by the China Food and Drug Administration, according to the draft. In the past, food safety was jointly managed by at least three agencies.

Zhang Yong, head of the food and drug administration, said on Monday that the draft amendment includes strict rules covering food production, transportation and sales.

He told lawmakers that food companies will face tougher punishment if they are found to be responsible for food safety accidents, and government officials will also be punished for failing to supervise food safety.

The amendment follows decisions made in November to establish the strictest system for food safety, said Li Jingwu, deputy director of the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Department of the State Council Legislative Office.

"A tough law is needed when illegal activities are still rampant, and violators must pay a high price for their misbehavior in food safety scandals," he said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Public concern over food safety has increased in recent years following frequent scandals involving major firms.

In 2008, Sanlu Group was found to have sold milk tainted with the toxic chemical melamine. The contaminated milk killed six infants and poisoned more than 300,000 others. Melamine can make milk appear to have a higher protein content.

In March 2011, Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor, was found to have bought pigs fed with fodder containing clenbuterol, a harmful additive known as "lean meat powder" because it can help produce lean meat among livestock.