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New rule: E-platforms must ensure food safety

By Wang Xiaodong | China Daily | Updated: 2016-07-15 08:25

Regulation, taking effect on Oct 1, requires verification of sources, including restaurants

Online platforms that sell food will receive serious penalties or be closed if they fail to properly manage food producers or sellers and serious harm results, according to an online food safety regulation that will take effect on Oct 1.

The regulation, which was released on Thursday, focuses on violations involving the safety of food sold online - including restaurants that prepare food and have it delivered after receiving an order online - said Cui Enxue, deputy chief of inspection at the China Food and Drug Administration, at a news conference on Thursday.

Providers of online platforms should carefully inspect food sellers and producers to ensure they are qualified to sell food on the platforms, and keep a record of them and update their information promptly, the regulation says.

Information about sellers and producers should be submitted to provincial food and drug authorities, including online addresses and the names of their legal representatives, the regulation says.

Platform providers should report violations of food safety laws to local food and drug authorities, and should stop providing services to offenders who have been investigated or punished by judicial authorities in connection with food safety issues, the regulation said.

Online sellers should get permits and licenses before commencing business, and should publish those prominently on their e-shops, the regulation says.

The platform providers will face fines of up to 30,000 yuan ($4,500) for violations of the regulation, and they can be held criminally responsible in serious cases, according to the CFDA.

Chen Xu, deputy chief of the administration's Legal Affairs Department, said supervision of third-party online platforms plays a very important role in ensuring online food safety, and the regulation, enacted for the first time in China, specifies responsibilities of the online platforms involved in promoting the food.

According to Cui, deputy chief of inspections at the administration, online providers can be held accountable if consumers are harmed by food products purchased on the platforms, and compensation should be provided if the sellers of the products cannot be found.

In March, the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration fined online food delivery service 120,000 yuan for allowing unqualified food vendors to operate via its mobile app.

The regulation also covers restaurants where food is prepared for delivery after orders are received online. The owners of the restaurants must also get permits.

Cui acknowledged the law isn't easy to enforce.

"It's a challenge for us to put all of them under effective supervision that will ensure all the cooks are healthy and that the raw materials used in the dishes are fresh," Cui said.

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