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Chinese Draft Food Law Gets Positive Feedback

Chinese citizens have submitted nearly 5,000 comments on a draft food safety law, most of which praised the effort to make the law or urged tougher penalties and supervision, according to officials.

As of 3:00 PM on Tuesday, the public had sent 4,838 comments through various means, according to the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. The Standing Committee of the NPC released the full draft for public comment on April 20. It was posted on the national legislature website,

Citizens making proposals all favored enacting the law, the commission said. They believed that the move demonstrated the policy of "putting the people first" and could ensure food safety and public health.

Some citizens made specific suggestions, for example, imposing tighter controls and penalties, clarifying food safety supervisory institutions' responsibilities and the government's role in financing food safety efforts, establishing uniform national standards and enhancing monitoring of small food processing workshops, according to the commission.

The definition of "food" should be specific and cover drinking water, edible oils, beverages, produce and meat, some suggested.

The food safety law should designate one department, instead of several, to be in charge of matters related to food processing including production, delivery and consumption, some proposed. These proposals noted that having several departments involved could lead to overlapping supervisory power and heavier regulatory burdens for the food industry.

Other submissions called for regular public updates on the monitoring and evaluation of genetically modified food.

Some citizens urged China to embrace international food regulations and replace numerous food standards with uniform ones.

The law should also ban food producers from using additives and enforce tight hygiene standards over staff in the food industry.

The draft law lays out penalties ranging from fines to life terms for makers of substandard food.

The comment period ends on May 20. Submissions will be delivered to the NPC Standing Committee for further study. A legislative schedule has yet to be set.

The draft law, covering food safety evaluation, monitoring, recall and information release, was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee last December for a first hearing.

(Xinhua News Agency April 30, 2008)

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