China Releases Punishment Standards for Food-Related Crimes
May 28 – China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate jointly released the “Interpretation on Certain Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Food-Related Criminal Cases (fashi  No.12, hereinafter referred to as the ‘Interpretation’)” on May 2, which came into effect on May 4, 2013. The Interpretation has clarified several issues regarding food-related crimes and puts forward punishment standards for such crimes.
China’s Criminal Law, which forbids the production or sales of unsafe and poisonous food, has set up two basic charges undermining food safety, namely:
- The production and sales of food that is below safety standards; and
- The production and sales of poisonous and harmful food.
For bringing up the first charge, an important condition of “enough to cause serious food poisoning and other food-borne diseases” shall be satisfied. However, this standard is not practicable as there is no clarification as to what kind of substandard food is “enough to cause serious food poisoning and other food-borne diseases.”
The production and sales of food that is below safety standards
In response, the Interpretation stipulates that the production and sale of food not in compliance with food safety standards shall be deemed as “enough to cause serious food poisoning and other food-borne diseases” if the following apply:
- The food contains invasive organisms, pesticide residue, veterinary drug residue, heavy metal, pollutants and other hazardous substances to human health which seriously exceed the standard limits;
- The food is banned from production or sales by explicit order from the State for disease prevention and control or other special purposes;
- The food belongs to meat products of farm animals, fowl, livestock or aquatic animals that do not pass inspection and quarantine, that die from disease, or that die for unknown reasons;
- The food is needed for infants’ growth and its nutrient content is seriously unmatched with food safety standards; or
- Other circumstances that may cause serious food poisoning or food-borne diseases.
Producing or selling the above-mentioned food may result in a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than seven years or life imprisonment, along with a fine or confiscation of property.
The production and sales of poisonous and harmful food
The Interpretation for the first time stipulates that the following acts shall be punished in accordance with the crime for production and sale of poisonous or harmful food.
- Adding poisonous or harmful non-food raw materials in the food processing, selling, transportation or storage process, or using poisonous or harmful non-food raw materials to process food;
- Using forbidden pesticides, veterinary drugs, or other poisonous or harmful substances in the planting, cultivation, selling, transportation or storage process of edible agriculture products; or
- Adding poisonous or harmful substances in health care products or other food products.
According to China’s Criminal Law, individuals who commit the above-mentioned acts may be sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years and be imposed a fine concurrently.
Where serious harm to human health has been caused or where other grave circumstances occur, the individual may be sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years, but not more than ten years, and be imposed a fine concurrently.
Where death has been caused or where there are other especially serious circumstances, the individual may be sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years, and could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. The individual will also be concurrently subject to a fine or confiscation of property.
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