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China bans bisphenol A in baby bottles, vows death penalty for serious safety breaches

By Rory Harrington , 31-May-2011

China has become the latest country to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, while Government officials signalled increasing use of the death penalty to crack down on food safety violators.

The Ministry of Health, in conjunction with five other government bodies, issued notices yesterday confirming that inclusion of BPA in the manufacture of infant bottles would be outlawed from 1 June (tomorrow).

From 1 September it will be illegal to import or sell any BPA-containing baby bottles, said the notice.

Beijing also urged local food inspectors to step up scrutiny on baby bottle producers to ensure compliance with the new measure.

The European Union announced at the end of last year that it was banning BPA in baby bottles. Production of containers with BPA was prohibited from 1 March, 2001, with a ban on the importation and sale due to come into force 1 June (tomorrow)

BPA is a monomer used in the manufacture of polycarbonate bottles. Its continued use in food contact materials remains a source of ongoing debate as it has been linked with serious health problems – including cancer, birth defects and heart disease. However, major food safety agencies across the globe – including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – have declared it poses no health hazards at current levels.

Death penalty

Further to Beijing’s target announced a few months ago of punishing food safety violations more severely, government chiefs have ordered the courts to hand out stiffer penalties to offenders.

The Supreme People’s Court said judges should impose the death penalty to those guilty of food safety crimes that result in human fatalities.

Those convicted of committing several violations in the same case – such as production and sale of counterfeit and sub-standard goods – should receive the harshest punishment available, added a Supreme Court notice last week.

Offenders should also be fined more heavily and/or banned from producing food.

Food crime team

A leading Beijing official announced the likely formation of a crack police squad to clamp down on the rising number of adulteration scandals amid growing public concern.

Ji Lin, vice-mayor of the city and director of the city's food safety commission, said the new team would target the surroundings between the urban and rural areas as they had become production hotbeds for counterfeit or unsafe food.

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