The country's top quality watchdog on Friday introduced landmark recall systems that require producers to take back unsafe toys and foodstuffs.
If producers do not carry out recalls on their own, the government will order a recall and fine the producers up to three times the value of the products, according to two regulations published by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
The two regulations, introduced with immediate effect, follow the introduction of a recall system for defective automobiles in 2005.
Both regulations state that producers must inform the public and retailers, and report to the quality control authorities if it is revealed that their products are unsafe. Retailers must immediately stop selling the products and launch a timely investigation into the defects or they will face a fine ranging from 1,000 to 50,000 yuan (US$132 to US$6,600).
Even if the products meet the country's quality safety regulations and standards, the regulations note that toymakers should still carry out a recall if their toys are found to be potentially unsafe.
If producers fail to voluntarily recall their products, which then cause serious public harm, they will have their production licenses revoked and be subject to criminal charges, according to the regulations.
Liu Zhaobin, director of the AQSIQ's policy and legislation department, said the recall systems were designed to strengthen the State Council Special Regulations on the Safety Supervision and Administration of Food and Other Products, issued in July.
"Our regulations make it very clear that producers must take the prior and major responsibilities for preventing and eliminating unsafe products," he told a press briefing.
Yet the AQSIQ should set up a management system of all recall information and evaluate the recalls under the regulations.
Liu said the country did recall unsafe food and toys in the past, but it was done "case by case" without a sound system.
The food and toy recall systems follow the issuing of a draft regulation on drug recall last month by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), which stipulated similar recall procedures for unsafe drugs and medical devices.
The AQSIQ also issued a regulation to standardize the inspection and quarantine of exported aquatic products.
"As the world's largest aquatic products exporter since 2002, China needs such a regulation to offer a legal basis for the inspection of such products," Liu said.
These latest moves follow a spate of safety scares over made-in-China products. Reports have revealed isolated cases of contaminated food additives, unsafe toothpaste, seafood and even toys, and sparked global concern over Chinese products in general.
Premier Wen Jiabao said China would face the problems squarely and make consistent efforts to improve product quality. However, he also noted that China did not support media hype and was against trade protectionism.
Nancy Nord, acting chairwoman of US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), also warned on Wednesday against turning a product safety issue with China into a trade issue.
"I think it will be foolish to turn a safety issue into a trade issue," she was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.
(China Daily September 1, 2007)