Page last updated at 19:19 GMT, Saturday, 28 February 2009

China enacts tough new food law

File Picture. Butcher sells pork in Beijing (09/12/08)
Food scandals have affected staples such as pork and milk

China has passed a strict new food safety law, after a series of scandals involving food processing companies which killed several people.

The law, five years in the making, consolidates hundreds of separate regulations and statutes covering China's 500,000 food processing firms.

The law pays special attention to food additives, which were at the centre of a tainted milk scandal last year.

No additives will be allowed unless proven safe, the new law declares.

It will go into effect on 1 June.

The Sanlu scandal exposed a loophole in the system
Lawmaker Xin Chunying

Milk from the Sanlu dairy company found to be contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine was last year blamed for the death of six children and making some 300,000 sick.

Two people were sentenced to death for their involvement in the Sanlu contamination. The former boss of the dairy at the centre of the milk scandal was imprisoned for life.

"The Sanlu scandal exposed a loophole in the system, and that's why the new law is especially strict in this area," Xin Chunying, a lawmaker from the National People's Congress Standing Committee was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The new law will also include a system for monitoring and supervision, a set of national standards for food safety, severe discipline for offenders and a system for food recall.

Just last week, at least 70 people fell ill after eating pork products contaminated with an illegal animal feed additive, state media reported.

In 2006, more than 300 people fell ill in Shanghai after eating pig meat or organs that had been contaminated in a similar fashion.

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