China: Highlights of the 2015 Food Safety Law


Moving faster than many expected, the National People’s Congress of China promulgated the amended Food Safety Law (“2015 Food Safety Law”) on April 24, 2015. The 2015 Food Safety Law will be effective on October 1, 2015. The 2015 Food Safety Law is regarded as the most stringent food safety regulation in the history of China. As regulatory authorities work to implement the law, food industry companies doing business in China should expect to see proposed rules from the China Food and Drug Administration (“CFDA”) and other agencies.

The last version of the Food Safety Law was passed in February 2009 (“2009 Food Safety Law”). The 2009 Food Safety Law was designed to prevent food safety scandals, such as the milk scandal in 2008, in which an estimated 290,000 infants in China were fed contaminated milk that was later found to have been adulterated with melamine, a toxic industrial compound. The contaminated milk caused the death of several infants and caused kidney damage in other infants. This scandal was a devastating blow to the Chinese dairy industry and raised food safety concerns to an unprecedented level. 

Although the 2009 Food Safety Law was a response to the 2008 milk scandal, it did not effectively solve the food safety issues in China. Instead, food safety scandals continued to occur frequently, with contamination and adulteration by foreign substances, severe hygiene violations and intentional tampering for economic reasons appearing almost commonplace in the years that followed. Major restaurant and retail brands felt the impact of continued food safety problems in China, and began to implement new and more stringent standards in the region.

Even with food companies’ greater awareness of food safety problems in China and the need for more stringent non-governmental efforts, the implementation of the 2009 Food Safety Law and subsequent food safety incidents highlighted the defects deeply rooted in the multiple and uncoordinated regulatory systems of the 2009 Food Safety Law. Under the 2009 Food Safety Law, a complete chain from food manufacturers to dinner tables was divided into three separate parts (i.e., food production, food distribution and catering service), and each part was under the supervision of the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (“GAQSIQ”), State Administration of Industry and Commerce (“SAIC”) and China Food and Drug Administration (“CFDA”), respectively. This regulatory system resulted in inconsistent law enforcement standards which were taken advantage of by unscrupulous merchants.

To better prevent potential food safety incidents and refine the regulatory mechanism, the State Council of China initiated the modification to the 2009 Food Safety Law in 2013. The legislature, authorized by the State Council to draft the modification, shifted from GAQSIQ, which drafted the 2009 Food Safety Law, to CFDA, which drafted the 2015 Food Safety Law.

To read the full alert, click on the PDF linked below.


If you have any questions, please contact one of the lawyers listed below.

Liza L.S. Mark

Robert A. Lauer
+1 512.867.8505

Suzanne Trigg
+1 214.651.5098


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