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China legislature approves new food safety law in wake of tainted milk scandal

[JURIST] China's top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (SCNPC) [official backgrounder], approved a new food safety law Saturday which will setup a commission to supervise the country's food monitoring system, according to state media reports. The law passed [China Daily report] by a vote of 158-7 and is to take effect June 1. It is intended to improve the monitoring system by implementing new national safety standards, recalling unsafe or inferior products, and provides strict punishment for those who violate the law. The law also includes provisions reducing the number of government agencies involved in food safety supervision [China Daily report], as this was a major point of criticism of the current system.

The new law follows a series of food scandals in China [JURIST news archive] over the last few years. News of milk powder contamination by the chemical melamine first broke in September [Guardian report], which lead to massive recalls [BBC report] of both liquid milk products and milk powders. The contaminated milk is believed to have caused [AP report] the deaths of at least six infants along with sickening about 300,000 others. In 2007 China came under fire after chemicals were found in toothpaste [NYT report], toys and seafood, and was generally blamed for toxins found in pet food [IHT report] that killed hundreds of dogs and cats in the US.

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