China to offer up to $48,000 reward for food safety informers

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will offer up to 300,000 yuan ($48,200) as a cash reward to people who report on others who violate food safety laws, state media said on Tuesday, as the government tries again to crack down on a persistent problem.

“Actions taken to report violations of food and drug safety laws will be rewarded,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The reward for each case, in principle, will not exceed 300,000 yuan.”

Rewards will be paid out after the authorities confirm the veracity of the tip-offs, the report said.

Repeated campaigns to crack down on the problem and the meting out of tough punishments have failed to bring an end to China’s food safety woes.

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.

Last week, fast-food chain KFC’s parent Yum Brands Inc apologized to customers in China over its handling of a recent food scare that has hit the company’s sales in its biggest market.

The scandal erupted when the official China Central Television reported in late December that some of the chicken supplied to KFC and McDonald’s Corp contained excess amounts of antiviral drugs and hormones used to accelerate growth.

Subsequent findings by the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration found the levels of antibiotics and steroids in Yum’s current batch of KFC chicken supply were safe, though the watchdog found a suspicious level of an antiviral drug in one of the eight samples tested.

Beijing said last December it would introduce tough new laws to punish firms that flout food safety laws, a significant move in China’s struggle to get its abysmal food safety record under control.

($1 = 6.2192 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Jeremy Laurence