By Sun Juanjuan
As stated in this comment, one expectation of the Chinese consumers has been realized that the punishment for the unscrupulous business people who make the food contaminated like food adulteration has been stricter by the current amendment of the criminal law, yet not as strict as they want. Indeed, during the deliberations of the first Chinese food safety law, one of the high concerns for strengthening food safety regulation was to make the legal punishment harsher. In the end, the fines for the infringement have been raised. However, food safety issues still come one after another. Therefore, the calls for increasing punishments have been continuing.
As far as China is concerned, it is worth mentioning one very typical issue that there are too many small food workshops to regulate. Even they are shut down by the official regulation in one day, they can be opened very conveniently in another day since the cost for having such small food workshops are very low. In addition, as people complained, even facing the punishments by legal provisions like the fine, imprison, however, such punishments are not enough to deter people from violation, not alone compared with the profit what they can make, it is still worth for them to take the risk to make such profit while against the legal requirements. Against this context, people ask for enforcing official regulation in the one side, and place the expectation of stricter and stricter legal punishment in the other side.
When it comes to food safety regulation, one thing is clear that prevention is better than control since the lost during the food safety issues can never be retrieved, especially the lives. Truly, punishment has some thing to do with the prevention of crime. For example, in the one hand, the strict punishment can be the deterrence for food business to make the profits at the cost of public health. In the other hand, the punishment can offer a kind of justice for the people who are the victims of the food safety issues. However, this kind of prevention is really not the prevention that food safety regulation does ask for.
Then what prevention should be in the food safety regulation? First, it is the emphasis that everyone should take the responsibility for food safety, that is to say food safety is a sharing responsibility, including the primary responsibility for food operator during the food chain, official responsibility for pre-market approval or inspection, and the consumers for handling food in a safe way. Only every one assumes its own responsibility, can food safety issues be prevented rather than break into a situation in which the life may be a cost. Second, there are several approaches have been developed to assure the responsibility can be applied, such as HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control point) for food operators, risk analysis for official control. In this case, the priority of the prevention is to legalize those approaches as a positive way to ensure food safety since they are proactive rather than reactive.
It is said that economic concern is put ahead of safety concern as to food safety regulation; therefore, the aspiration on the punishment does function as the last resort. But, as a saying in china, it is wise to do the thing in two ways in order to obtain the objective (双管齐下). So, for successful food safety regulation, positive prevention should be together with the negative one.