Beijing toughens food safety rules

BEIJING – Beijing plans to ban people convicted of food-safety crimes from investing in and operating related businesses as China’s government steps up action against such violations.

The city will better regulate the use of edible additives in the catering industry and crack down on the illegal use of inedible substances and the mislabeling of production and sell-by dates, according to a draft amendment to regulations published on the municipal government’s website. Beijing’s government will seek the public’s opinion until April 25, it said in a statement dated April 6.

The rules reflect China’s efforts to improve regulation of the industry after a string of problems related to food, including tainted milk, added to public concern about food safety.

China’s vice premier, Li Keqiang, has called for harsh punishment of violators and said the nation plans to establish a long-term mechanism this year to check food safety.

China will prioritize regulation of nonedible additives this year, the State Food and Drug Administration said March 16.

The agency urged local governments to step up supervision of such additives, including antibiotics.

Six infants died and 300,000 were sickened in 2008 by formula milk containing melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and adhesives, in China’s most severe food scandal.

The nation has faced more food-safety problems in the past year, fanning public anger and anxiety.

A Beijing branch of McDonald’s Corp. was found to have sold chicken wings past their sell-by period last month, while Carrefour SA mislabeled ordinary chicken as premium, forcing it to shut an outlet in Central China on orders from the local government.

Walmart Stores Inc. temporarily closed all 13 outlets in Chongqing last year after mislabeling ordinary pork as organic. Police detained 37 employees, and Ed Chan, Walmart’s head of China operations, resigned for personal reasons after the episode.

China Mengniu Dairy Co.’s website was hacked in December after regulators found excessive levels of toxin in its milk products.

Food-related companies and operators whose licenses were previously revoked may see their ban extended by five years from three years currently, according to the draft amendment.

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