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Shanghai Mulls Harsher Punishment for Food-Safety Violations

Shanghai’s government is considering harsher punishments for companies that violate food safety rules, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, citing the city’s vice mayor.

Starting next year, the Eastern Chinese municipality may introduce laws to blacklist businesses that use banned drugs or harmful substances during planting, processing or transportation of their produce, according to the report. The proposed regulations will also prohibit activities including the recycling food as a raw material, Xinhua reported, citing Vice Mayor Shen Xiaoming.

The Shanghai measures are part of a nationwide push to improve food safety, after recent reports on violations sparked public outrage and increased scrutiny on the industry. China Central Television reported on Dec. 18 some suppliers for Yum! Brands Inc. and McDonald’s Corp. were indiscriminately feeding antibiotics and growth hormones to their chickens, while Xinhua said last month some products made by baijiu company JiuGuiJiu Co. were also found to have excessive plasticizer.

Errant businesses and company executives will be banned from operating in the city, receive “administrative punishment at the highest level,” and excluded from government subsidies and preferential policies, Xinhua said, citing Gu Zhenhua, deputy director of the municipal food safety committee office.

Shanghai’s Food and Drug Administration said on Dec. 20 that third-party tests between 2010 and 2011 found excessive levels of antibiotics in eight batches of chicken supplied to Yum, which operates the KFC and Pizza Hut chains in China.

JiuGuiJiu apologized last month when samples of its drinks were found to have more than three times the permitted level of dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to flavor drinks and in plastic containers.

China had pledged greater consumer protection in 2008 after milk tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical used to make plastic and tan leather, was blamed for the death of at least six babies and caused the hospitalization of tens of thousands of children. Last year, the government also cracked down on the use of cooking oil reprocessed from restaurant waste.

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