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Food safety law put on review agenda
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The widely anticipated draft food safety law designed to raise standards and regulate supervision will be submitted to the national legislature for first review next week.

Drafts of the State assets law and social insurance law will also be tabled for first reading at the 31st session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee to be held from Sunday to December 29, a statement from the NPC Standing Committee said Monday.

"Food safety is vital to improving people's lives and health, so legislation must match national efforts to safeguard food safety," Premier Wen Jiabao said.

An announcement posted earlier on the central government's website said the draft food safety bill covers food production, processing, consumption and regulation.

It calls for the swifter release of information on food safety issues, higher fines for errant firms and punishment for officials who act irresponsibly. It also seeks to guarantee the public's right to compensation and to sue.

The draft bill also requires the establishment of a food safety risk analysis and monitoring system, as well as closer checks of food imports and exports, according to the announcement.

After adoption, the law will replace the existing Food Hygiene Law, which was passed 12 years ago. The Legislation Law stipulates that a draft law usually receives three reviews before being adopted.

Meanwhile, the draft State assets law, whose legislation began 14 years ago, is expected to standardize the management of State-owned assets and prevent abuses.

Li Rongrong, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), said: "The law will create a comprehensive management and supervision mechanism for State assets."

The draft is supposed to define what kinds of assets the law should cover. The role of the SASAC - whether it will be a pure government agency that regulates the industry or an investor representing the State - will also be further defined.

China has about 13 trillion yuan ($1.76 trillion) worth of State-owned assets, equivalent to more than half its annual gross domestic product.

The draft social insurance law will define the coverage of social insurance, regulate the collection of insurance fees and set guidelines for the management and supervision of the social insurance fund, Xin Chunying, deputy director of the legal affairs commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said.

Draft amendments to the laws on frontier health and quarantine, the protection of cultural relics and individual income tax will also undergo a first reading next week, but with minor changes, according to the statement from the NPC Standing Committee.

In addition, lawmakers will continue to review the draft anti-drug law, the draft law on labor dispute mediation and arbitration, draft amendments to the laws on road transportation safety, science and technology progress, and prevention and control of water pollution.

They will also go through a report submitted by the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the outcome of the public consultation on the Green Paper on Constitutional Development and on whether to amend the methods for selecting the chief executive and for forming the Legislative Council in 2012.

The State Council will submit to the session three reports on healthcare reforms, food and drug quality supervision, protection of legal rights of employees and rural area development.

(China Daily December 18, 2007)

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