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Food Traceability in China

Between Law and Technology

Riccardo Berti, Mariagrazia Semprebon


One of the pivotal issues on the horizon of the new Chinese Food Safety Law, adopted in 2015, is the traceability of food. This western concept (borrowed from EU law) has been introduced in China in the wake of food safety incidents, which undermined consumer confidence in domestic foods. Between audacious technological solutions (blockchain, rfid and QR-codes) and recurring problems (lack of databases, overlapping standards, poor administrative coordination, among others) this issue is not only interesting for its peculiar traits in the PRC, but also because it involves both ruling and technology, linked amid them, in China, by several technical standards (guobiao). While Xi Jinping urges for strict food safety measures, the implementation of a comprehensive food traceability system is a long and costly process, which involves local administrative levels (traditionally a weak point in Chinese law enforcement, biased by local protectionism) and the active participation of the private sector that, like in environmental law, gains importance as a supporter and aggregator of consumer needs. This study examines several technical standards and their relationship with the relevant laws in the subject, providing then examples of FTS implementation at local level and covering the normative basis for the most interesting technological solutions tested in China.

Riccardo Berti is a lawyer at Zumerle Law Firm, Verona, Italy, author of sections 3 and 4.For correspondence:<mailto:riccardo.berti.vr@gmail.com>. Mariagrazia Semprebon is a lawyer at Agrilegal, Verona, Italy, author of sections 1 and 2. For correspondence:<mailto:mariagrazia.semprebon@agrilegal.it>.

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