China Food Law Update: The 2015 Food Safety Law and Social Governance on Food Safety

12(2) Journal of Food Law and Policy (Forthcoming)

35 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2016

See all articles by Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts

Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law

Ching-Fu Lin

National Tsing Hua University

Date Written: November 19, 2016


This update of China food law builds on a unique feature for the Journal of Food Law & Policy that has provided since the inception of the Journal separate food law updates for the United States and European Union. “Recognizing the globalness of the modern food system, these updates have served an invaluable role in keeping scholars and practitioners abreast of the world’s leading food regulatory systems.” China’s emergence as a developed, modern food regulatory system with the potential of being a leading food regulatory system makes sense given its position as a world economic powerhouse. China’s role in the recent food safety debate over the veterinary drug ractopamine hydrochloride points to the increasingly visible leadership by China in international food law debates that are both complex and polarizing. The central issue confronting China’s development of food law is whether it can move fast enough in a complex modern food system to create, refine, and streamline a food regulatory regime that befits its place as a world-leading economy.

Food safety regulation receives particular attention in China due to vexing, highly publicized food safety incidents. In response to continuous public criticisms and calls for strengthening food safety governance, the government went through years of drafting, commenting, reviewing, revising, and wrestling between divergent interests, and finally came up with a series of fine-tuning institutional designs, which culminated in the 2015 Food Safety Law (2015 FSL). The 2015 FSL replaced the 2009 Food Safety Law (2009 FSL), which served as China’s first comprehensive food safety regulation. The 2009 FSL was preceded by regulation dating back to 1965 when the State Council issued the first food regulation - the Food Hygiene Law. This law mainly dealt with the unsanitary conditions in which food products were stored, manufactured, and transported. It did not set forth requirements for food content because China was still recovering from a famine, in which an estimated thirty million people died of malnutrition between 1960 and 1962; the government’s primary concern was how to maintain an adequate food supply. Following a series of updates, the China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed the 2009 FSL, the nation’s first comprehensive Food Safety Law. The 2009 FSL was the first piece of Chinese food legislation to use the word “safety.” The transition from the 2009 FSL to the 2015 FSL was facilitated by the State Council’s release in July 2012 of the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Food Safety Regulation, which provided guidance on ten essential dimensions of food safety governance and recommended further amendments to the 2009 Food Safety Law.

Keywords: Food Safety, China, Regulatory Reform

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Michael and Lin, Ching-Fu, China Food Law Update: The 2015 Food Safety Law and Social Governance on Food Safety (November 19, 2016). 12(2) Journal of Food Law and Policy (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Michael Roberts (Contact Author)

Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Ching-Fu Lin

National Tsing Hua University ( email )



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