- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — China’s proposed food safety law, which promises tough penalties including life imprisonment for makers of dangerous food products, is a good first step, industry officials and analysts said yesterday.

A draft version of the law, released this week, is aimed at raising standards for an industry that has taken a beating after a series of quality scandals, including tainted exports.

Producers of substandard food could be sentenced to life in prison under the draft law, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

One food industry official said the government also should educate producers about the need for better practices.

“Penalties and violations are not enough; it has to be a comprehensive process, a continuous process, not just a one-time fine,” said James Rice, country manager for China for food manufacturer Tyson Foods Inc.

The draft law was issued on the Web site of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, as part of the government’s initiative to solicit public comment. After May 20, it will be submitted to the legislature for consideration, although no date has been set for when it might become law.

The World Health Organization welcomed the draft, but said a food safety law should be more inclusive and cover products from the farm to the consumer. The draft law does not cover basic agriculture products, said Hans Troedsson, WHO’s China representative.

Zhou Qing, a journalist who spent two years writing a book about food safety in China, said strong implementation of the law is needed.

“China should constantly focus on the problem of food safety, instead of just carrying out campaigns which don’t have a long-lasting effect. Ordinary people will only observe the law if the government takes it very seriously,” Mr. Zhou said.

China pledged to crack down on food safety problems after its exports, including fish tainted with pesticides, came under heavy scrutiny last year.

The draft law aims to improve monitoring of food and establish a recall system for unsafe products. Makers of substandard food products face fines, imprisonment and the confiscation of their production certificates.

Fines range from $715 to $14,300, according to the draft.

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