Heavier penalties needed to eliminate food safety scandals

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/20 23:43:39

Food safety is never a mundane topic given that billions of meals are served daily in China. Recently, Gong Wenbin, manager of a bakery and confectionery factory in Liuyang, Hunan Province was sentenced to 10 months in prison and banned from the food industry for life. He was found to be lacing his pastries with dimethyl fumarate (DMF), a carcinogen used in woodworking to prevent mold.

Gong's case is just another in a long list of food contamination scandals. From toxic infant formulas and reused gutter oil to fake mooncakes, food scandals have been exposed one after another in recent years. As people's living standards improve, the public has higher requirements for food safety and is zero-tolerant of tainted food.

Food safety directly affects the health and life of everyone. During the 2008 contaminated milk scandal, tens of thousands of innocent infants were hospitalized and some died after being fed milk poisoned with melamine.

The use of DMF which is usually applied to furniture harms the functions of the liver, kidney and other organs, and has long been banned in the food industry.

Food contamination has also stricken a heavy blow to the public's confidence in China's food sector. In the wake of a series of scandals, netizens joked that their immune system is stronger than those of aliens. Many Chinese, lacking confidence in domestic food production, have turned to the overseas market for infant formula and healthcare products, blunting the growth of China's industry. As worried Chinese parents started buying up Australia's supply of baby formula, strong protests were heard from Australian mothers, damaging people-to-people ties between the two countries.

No crime related to food security can go unpunished. Apparently, the Chinese government is now much more responsible in food supervision than in 2008 when there were reports of collusion between local officials and Sanlu Group, the long-since-closed dairy behind the toxic milk scandal. In the more recent DMF case, the quick action by local authorities is encouraging. Soon after DMF was detected in pastries made by Gong's factory, Changsha Municipal Food and Drug Administration immediately notified local police.

To safeguard food security, China's new Food Safety Law has been made more stringent with timely adjustments. For instance, Article 135 regulates that "those who have been sentenced to prison due to any crime related to food safety may not engage in the management of food production and distribution or act as safety manager for food producers or distributors."

This still will not eliminate food crimes. Preventative measures are more important. Food production now has more diversified distribution channels and larger scale production than ever before. Punishment of criminals remains lenient on the whole.

Heavier penalties for those who contaminate food for selfish gains will demonstrate the government's determination to improve and maintain food safety.



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