China warns of death sentence for serious food safety violations

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety

Imposing the death penalty for the worst offences and the mulling of a ban on a bakery bleaching agent are the latest measures unveiled this week by Chinese authorities as part of its ongoing battle to tackle food safety breaches.

A joint notice issued by the Public Security Bureau and three other agencies urged a “high voltage”​ crackdown and said large-scale or severe food safety cases should be punished severely, said Chinese state media.

Strict punishment

"Those deserving death penalties should be resolutely sentenced to death,"​ said Xinhua quoting from the official notice, which was jointly issued with The Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People's Procuratorate

The release also vowed to introduce harsher punishments for government officials who ignore food safety offences, protect offenders or take bribes.

According to the paper, the circular said: "Officials who are involved in food safety crimes should not be given a reprieve or be exempt from criminal punishment.”

No apparent change in the law appeared to be suggested by the notice but rather that courts should hand out harsher punishments. Factors that judges should consider are the amount of money involved, criminal culpability, and criminal methods. Repeat offenders, principals of criminal groups and those resulting in severe harm to people or to large-scale sales, should be "strictly​” punished in accordance with laws and regulations, said the document.

China has been beset with a string of wide-spread and high profile food safety scandals in recent years including the adulteration of milk powder with melamine that killed six and sickened at least 300,000.

Flour bleaching ban

In a separate development, the Ministry of Health said it was considering a ban on a bleaching agent widely used in flour processing. Officials are deciding whether to outlaw benzoyl peroxide (BPO) as an additive to flour.

The proposal came after authorities carried out a public consultation on revision to food additives - with many calling for a BPO ban. Some 100 companies previously called for a ban on the additive in the wake of the 2008 melamine contamination incidents.

Officials are said to be looking at the possible effects a ban would have on industry and foreign trade. Approval for the use of the additive in flour production was given in 1986, allowing up to 60 mg/kg of flour.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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