Food safety bill seeks stronger penalties for violations

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Food safety violators in Vietnam can face criminal charges or be asked to pay fines up to seven times the value of the products under a new bill introduced Thursday.

The Food Safety Bill also stipulates that the Health Ministry will be completely responsible for food safety control in the country.

The task is currently performed by different ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and their jobs often overlap.

It's necessary to impose strict penalties as food safety violations have great impact on the nation's future generations, deputy chairman of the National Assembly, Nguyen Duc Kien, said at a meeting of the NA Standing Committee.

But Nguyen Van Thuan, chairman of the Law Committee, the penalties proposed in the bill may be too heavy because violators also have to compensate and repair the damage besides paying fines.

Most members of the NA Standing Committee agreed with a provision in the bill that genetically modified foods have to be appropriately labeled.

Although there hasn't been any scientific evidence that genetically modified foods can harm consumers, many concerns over the issue have certainly been raised, Truong Thi Mai, chairwoman of the Social Affairs Committee, was quoted by Tien Phong newspaper as saying.

As a result, it's necessary to include regulations on genetically modified foods in the Food Safety Bill, she said.

At Thursday's meeting legislators also discussed a bill on efficient energy use. Many NA Standing Committee members questioned the feasibility of the bill, local news website VietNamNet reported.

Thuan of the Law Committee said the bill seeks to punish those who use energy inefficiently but there are no penalties stated.

The bill stipulates that the Ministry of Science and Technology will set efficiency standards for energy-using products. But Thuan said it would be an impossible task because there are millions of products, including imported ones.

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