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Picture in 1000 Words


        After being in China for over two months I have noticed many different styles of restaurant and side food markets, some of which were very well kept and clean, but many were very dirty and seemed to be rather unsanitary.  Because of these vast differences I decided to look further into the laws which regulate the cleanliness of these businesses.  The photo I chose is from a small street-side restaurant.  The picture shows one chef preparing a dish.  What the picture doesn’t show is how this is the only station for cooking food, and the pan is not always washed in between cooking each dish.  It also depicts how dirty and unsanitary the surrounds of the restaurant are.  After observing the quality of the restaurant and how sanitary it seemed, I wanted to look deeper into the laws that regulate and keep the food quality safe for the consumers and how they have changed and improved over the past years.

            Up until the Cultural Revolution there were not many laws regulating the safety and quality of food.  On November 21, 1949 the Ministry of Health was established in the People’s Republic of China.  This contained sixteen different departments and did not only focus on the safety and quality of the food to protect the people of illness caused by bad nutrition.  The Ministry of Health consists of mandates that drafts laws and propose health programs.  They educate the public on health prevention and make sure health-care in safe.  Along with the health-care regulations, they also create food quality protocols.  The Ministry of Health was the start of China’s food quality control (Zhu, Chen. "Ministry of Health").[1]

            The first real push towards a food safety law was conducted in 1965, just prior the Cultural Revolution.  It was called the Regulations on Administration of Food Hygiene.  These laws mainly focused on the food supply, and not on the safety and quality of the food being produced.  Being formulated in the year prior to the Cultural Revolution, these laws didn’t last.  Due to the fall of the legal system during the Cultural Revolution, the Regulations on Administration of Food Hygiene failed (Bian Yongmin, “The Challenges for Food Safety in China”).[2]

            During the Cultural Revolution all of the food production and distribution companies were controlled and run by the state, so there were few problems with the quality of the food.  The food was produced traditionally, which reduced the chances of a safety problem.  Following the end of the Cultural Revolution and the rise new legal systems and economic reforms, China was able to further themselves in the world of hygienic foods.  In 1979 China formulated the Regulations on the Administration of Food Hygiene (Bian Yongmin, “The Challenges for Food Safety in China”).[3] The Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China was first drafted in 1979.  Over the next decade it was edited and revised multiple times.  The first time was three years after the founding in 1982, and then on October 30, 1995 the final revisions were added to the law to make it what it is today.  The law consists of nine chapters; General Provisions, The Safety of Food, The Safety of Food Additives, The Sanitation and Safety of Food Containers, Packaging Materials, Utensils and Equipment, The Formulation of Food Hygienic Standards and Regulations, Food Safety Control, Food Safety Inspection and Supervision, Legal Liability, and Supplementary Provisions.  The main point of this law is to “ensure food safety, prevent food contamination and hazardous factors from doing harm to humans, and to guarantee people's health and improve people's physique” "Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China").[4] Other factors of this law consist of random government inspections to ensure that everyone is abiding by these laws.  Also, the quality of food must be safe and the environment in which the food is produced and distributed must follow a strict hygienic law ("Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China").[5]

            With the Food Hygiene Law in effect, China’s food quality rose greatly and there were far fewer food problems occurring among the population.  It was looking very successful until a major food safety scandal arose.  In September of 2008, a toxic chemical called Melamine was discovered in a company’s powdered milk products.  After much investigation, it was found that people in the Sanlu Group, the company’s name, were guilty of contaminating the powder and many were imprisoned and a few were executed ("Timeline: China Milk Scandal").[6]  Because of this scandal China decided to improve the Food Hygiene Law.

            On June 1, 2009 the Food Safety Law was drafted and it took the place of the previous Food Hygiene Law that was being used in the past. The Law contained everything the Hygiene Law contained, but broadened its scope to cover more areas to prevent another food safety scandal from arising. The law made stricter laws regarding food additives, and now requires every company to keep a personal record of inspections done internally.  Also, this law got rid of the inspection exemption policy; no company is exempted from a government inspection.  If there is another scandal and a product is found unsafe, the government is now able to recall the entire product and remove it from the shelves to prevent further illness.  As of now, the Food Safety Law is the most up to date (Ho, Bing. "New Food Safety Law Brings Sweeping Changes to the PRC Food Industry").[7]

            It is very evident how China’s food quality and safety measures have increased through the back few decades.  China started out very unhygienic and through reforms and laws brought it self to be a cleaner country.  Although China has made giant steps in the right direction, I believe, from what I have observed while being here, China still has room for improvement.

[1] Zhu, Chen. "Ministry of Health." 

[2] Bian Yongmin, “The Challenges for Food Safety in China”,

[3] Bian Yongmin, “The Challenges for Food Safety in China”.

[4] "Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China." 

[5] "Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China." 

[6] "Timeline: China Milk Scandal."

[7] Ho, Bing. "New Food Safety Law Brings Sweeping Changes to the PRC Food Industry." 


Bian Yongmin, “The Challenges for Food Safety in China”, China perspectives, May- June 2004, Accessed Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <>.

Ho, Bing. "New Food Safety Law Brings Sweeping Changes to the PRC Food Industry." Bakermckenzie. N.p., Apr.-Jun. 2009. Accessed Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <>.

"Food Hygiene Law of the People’s Republic of China." Food Hygiene Law of the People's Republic of China. N.p., 30 Oct. 1995. Accessed Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <>.

"Timeline: China Milk Scandal." BBC News. N.p., 25 Jan. 2010. Accessed Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <>.

Zhu, Chen. "Ministry of Health." Ministry of Health. N.p., 22 Dec. 2009. Accessed Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <>.



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