Higher fines best way to ensure food safety
The Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Supreme People's Court and five other departments recently made public the minutes of their meeting where it was suggested that the penalties for food safety violators be raised.
The meeting also raised the possibility of introducing a compensation system to better protect consumers' legal rights.
Food safety concerns everybody as problematic food can harm any number of people. In recent years, the general food safety situation has been improving. However, reports still emerge about some supermarkets selling food that is past the expiry date or of factories replacing the original tag showing the date of production with erratic ones.
A good way to combat such violations is by filing public interest lawsuits. According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, from 2017 to 2019, prosecutors across the country filed 800 public interest lawsuits seeking 1.1 billion yuan ($172 million) in compensation.
That's a huge amount, but such punitive penalties serve a purpose, as they can send a message to the entire food industry to mend its ways.
Of course, the process needs some streamlining. How much violation and extent of damage constitutes illegality by an enterprise needs to be clearly defined on the basis of which the compensation amount can be decided.
For example, if expired food sold by an enterprise leads to consumers suffering from diarrhea, then the number of such food packages available in the market, those already sold, the number of consumers who suffered and how many more might have suffered had action not been taken in time need to be taken into account while fixing the compensation amount. This is how enterprises will know the price of breaking the law and avoid doing so.
And the fines collected this way should be used to protect consumers' rights. The minutes of the meeting show that the departments proposed setting up a foundation for collecting the fines and using it specifically to protect consumers' rights.
We hope that such a system is put in place soon for better food safety.