SHANGHAI Beijing will introduce tough new laws to punish firms that flout food safety laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported, a significant move in China's struggle to get its abysmal food safety record under control.
The announcement follows a similar declaration by the city of Shanghai on Wednesday saying it would blacklist firms that flout food safety laws.
Under the new Beijing regulations, to take effect in April, firms caught producing or selling unsafe foods will be banned from operating in Beijing for life, according to a municipal food safety regulation passed on Thursday, the report said.
Employees found responsible for food safety problems and the executives of companies that commit food safety problems will not be allowed to work in the industry for five years after their firms' licenses are revoked, the report said.
China's food safety problems have proven difficult to eradicate even after repeated government campaigns to enforce standing laws and change attitudes at Chinese companies.
Frequent media reports refer to cooking oil being recycled from drains, carcinogens in milk, and fake eggs. In 2008, milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000.
On Monday, Shanghai's food safety authority said the level of antibiotics and steroids in Yum Brands Inc's (YUM.N) KFC chicken was within official limits, but found a suspicious level of an antiviral drug in one of the eight samples tested.
Yum faced criticism last week from China's state-owned broadcaster, which said Yum's KFC chickens in China contained an excessive level of antibiotics.
(Reporting by Pete Sweeney; Editing by Chris Gallagher)