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Heavier Fines to Ensure Food Safety

Exporters of food products that fail to meet safety standards of destination countries face a fine of up to 20 times the value of the consignment and can even be charged for committing a crime if the top legislature approves a draft law.

Food product exporters who fail to go through entry-exit quarantine inspections face similar punishments, according to the draft law under the first review at the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

If approved, the draft law will spell out clear penalties for illegal food exporters for the first time.

The two existing laws on food safety, the Food Hygiene Law and the Law on Agricultural Product Quality and Safety, say nothing about penalties. They only authorize the State Council to issue relevant regulations.

The draft food safety law seeks to impose tighter checks on food exports, too, and makes it mandatory for food exporters and supply farms to register with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

The AQSIQ has to prepare a blacklist of violators and recommend exporters with good records, and make both the lists public, the draft says.

The Law on Agricultural Product Quality and Safety says nothing about exports, and the Food Hygiene Law only stipulates that food products to be exported have to pass the examinations of the country's entry-exit inspection and quarantine agencies.

State Council Legislative Affairs Office head Cao Kangtai said the stipulations and penalties in the draft law are to ensure better quality of exported food.

"They will ensure that China-made products establish a good image in the international market," he said.

The quality of Chinese products, especially food, has been in the news in recent months.

Cao conceded food safety incidents have been reported from time to time, hurting the made-in-China label.

These reports have elicited response from the highest offices, with Premier Wen Jiabao calling for better legislation to match government efforts to safeguard food products.

(China Daily December 28, 2007)

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