A draft revision to China's Food Safety Law, tabled for its second reading on December 22, introduces detention for offenders.
Anyone adding inedible substances to foods could find themselves behind bars for up to 15 days, according to the bill.
Punishments specified in the current Food Safety Law mostly involve fines and revocation of certificates.
For more serious offences, suspects will be subject to the Criminal Law. At the draft's first reading in August, lawmakers argued that the current law is not clear on what should be considered a criminal offense.
The new version adds punishments for adding expired material or additives to products. In July, Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd, a supplier to McDonald's and KFC, was found using expired meat in its products. Six of the company's senior executives were arrested and the draft makes specific provisions for this kind of offense.
The fine for producers will be 10 to 20 times the total product value if more than 10,000 yuan (U. S. $1,600). For products worth less than 10,000 yuan, the fine will be 50,000 to 100,000 yuan. Production certificates will be revoked for serious offences.
The version of the bill allows the prosecution of landlords of production sites who turn a blind eye to illegal activities on their premises, but exempts distributors from punishment if they can show they followed procedure and were unaware of suppliers' practices.
At the previous reading, lawmakers were concerned by toxic pesticides, an issue that has now been addressed to some extent.
The country still stocks certain highly toxic pesticides for emergency use and a full ban is not realistic, but a new article will encourage use of low toxicity pesticides and will speed up a full ban on the highly toxic variety. Administrative detention will be allowed for offenders who illegally use highly toxic alternatives, but at yesterday's panel discussion, lawmakers continued to press for more specific regulations.
Lawmaker Wang Mingwen noted that since a full ban is not realistic right now, the law should at least regulate pesticide use as strictly as possible. Others called for a timetable for a full ban and detailed rules on when and how to use the most dangerous types.
Lawmaker Shen Depei suggested a strict definition of exactly what constitutes an emergency when toxic pesticides could be used.
According to agriculture authorities, the use of highly toxic pesticides has fallen substantially in the past 10 years.
Another controversial issue, genetically modified foods, did not go unnoticed.
The new bill requires producers to label their products appropriately if they contain any genetically modified ingredients listed by the agriculture ministry.
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