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CHINESE GOVERNMENT ATTACHES IMPORTANCE TO FOOD AND DRUG SAFETY(07/18/07)

 

CHINESE GOVERNMENT ATTACHES IMPORTANCE TO FOOD AND DRUG SAFETY

1.      The General Picture

Recently, Chinese food safety and product quality have been widely reported by the U.S. media, raising concerns in the United States. China takes this issue very seriously and wages an on-going campaign to address the problem.

       As a result of investigations conducted by AQSIQ and relevant agencies, the quality watchdogs of the Chinese Government, the cases reported so far are isolated cases. China is exporting food to over 200 countries and regions in the world, and over 99% its food exports meet the quality requirements.

Statistics of the inspection authority also show that the percentage of certified food exports from China to the United States are 99% in 2004 and 2005 and 99.2% in 2006. For China's food products entering Japan and EU countries, close to 100% are certified.

       2. The Findings of Investigations

a.      Pet food

The pet food contamination cases uncovered last March were caused by illegal practice of two Chinese companies. These companies involved and the relevant responsible persons have been penalized according to law. At the same time, the competent authority is now stepping up the supervision over relevant industries.

b.      Tooth paste

There is no existing definite international standard on the use or maximum amount of DEG in tooth paste, nor any data showing cases where the use of tooth paste containing DEG directly leads to poisoning of the human body. In addition, tests conducted by Chinese experts show that tooth paste product made in China that contain DEG are safe. Despite the above and to ensure scientific application of tooth paste by consumers, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) recently announced the prohibition of the use of DEG as an ingredient of tooth paste made in China.

c.       Tire safety.

Concerning the U.S. media reports that tires imported from China have potential safety problems and have caused a traffic accident in Pennsylvania, the U.S. sales company of the tire in question, FTS, issued a press release to its sales operators and consumers at the end of last month, correcting the company's previous statements about the tire. According to the press release, tests on the relevant types of tires imported from China show that they meet and exceed all U.S. federal safety standards for motor vehicles, and studies on the van and tire involved in the Pennsylvanian accident have led to the conclusion that the tire made in China could not be confirmed as the cause of the accident.

Apart from that, the specialized agency in China conducted tests on samples that are the same type as the tires exported to the United States. The results show that they fully comply with the U.S. standards.

3. Measures Taken

China's trade with countries including the United States has grown so rapidly and on a scale so large that individual problem in food export becomes hardly avoidable. However, the Chinese Government has NOT turned a blind eye or tried to cover up. We have taken this matter very seriously, acted responsibly and immediately adopted forceful measures to address the problems in the interest of the health and safety of the Chinese public and the consumers of the importing nations.

More importantly, the Chinese Government has emerged from the problems with a host of measures targeting and strengthening export food and drug safety, which testify to the resolve and good faith of the Chinese Government to address food and drug quality and safety. The measures include:

a.       Stricter inspection at port of export and increased sampling percentage. Food destined for the U.S. market are now subject to 100% open container inspection by port inspection and quarantine agencies, and all those found with discrepancy between goods and documents, or with quality or safety problems will be withheld from exporting.

b.      Establishment of an on-line blacklist to publish the names of export companies with malpractice to the public in addition to legal punishment.

c.       Rapid response to briefing on sub-standard products provided by food and drug authorities of importing countries. This includes immediate investigation and timely analysis and settlement.

d.      Regular AQSIQ press conference. AQSIQ began holding regular press conference in July to increase media and public supervision over government work in food and drug safety.

On the basis of these measures, the Chinese Government will continue to improve overall supervision from production to export, including production, distribution, import and export as well as legislation, enforcement, supervision and management, so as to upgrade the quality and safety of Chinese products and make them safe for domestic and overseas consumers.

4. U.S. Cooperation Needed

It must be pointed out that food and drug safety problem is a global issue rather than unique to China. Developed countries including the United States and European countries are also faced with this problem to different degrees. For example, there have been successive cases of spinach, lettuce and peanut butter contamination in the United States since the beginning of this year. Pork and poultry exports from certain U.S. companies were found to contain chemical additives or over-the-mark pathogenic bacteria counts, and the Chinese inspection agency had to announce a suspension on relevant imports. According to a report of the New York Times on July 12th, U.S. FDA data of last year shows that food exported from many countries, including some developed countries in Western European and Asia, were refused entry by U.S. customs and China did not top the list in terms of the total amount of products stopped at the U.S. border. In such context, it is unfair and irresponsible for the U.S. media to single China out, play up China's food safety problems and mislead the U.S. consumer.

The Chinese side hopes that the U.S. side will respect science and treat China's food and drug exports fairly, will not exaggerate or play up individual food safety cases and still less creating "China threat" in the field of food and drugs so as to prevent the misimpression among the U.S. public that all food and drugs imported from China are unsafe. Blowing up, complicating or politicizing a problem are irresponsible actions and do not help in its solution or benefit the sound development of bilateral trade. It is even more unacceptable for some to launch groundless smear attacks on China at the excuse of food and drug safety problems.

The Chinese side is ready to strengthen consultations and cooperation with the U.S. side. China's AQSIQ and State Food and Drug Administration would like to further strengthen the existing close and good working relations with the USFDA so as to work together to ensure food and drug safety and better protect the health and wellbeing of the general public in China and the United States.

Chinese Food Exports Are Safe

I. Safety Conditions of Chinese Food Exports

Chinese food products are exported to more than 200 countries and regions. Among the top ten are Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Indonesia and Britain. Statistics show that quality rating of Chinese food exports is very high.

According to statistics of Chinese quality supervision agencies, from 2004 to 2006, the number of batches of food items exported from the US to China was 17222, 22584 and 28398 respectively. Among them 169, 259 and 259 batches were found to fail quality check. The percentage of unqualified items was 0.98%, 1.15% and 0.91%. 89459, 81754 and 94442 batches of food were exported from China to the US. Among them 925, 845 and 756 batches failed the quality check by the US FDA with the rate being 1.03%, 1.03% and 0.80%. In the meantime, 324245, 279156 and 275446 batches of Chinese food were exported to Japan, out of which 492, 395 and 459 batches were not up to the standard set by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan. The percentage was 0.15%, 0.14% and 0.17% respectively. Chinese food exports to EU were 96988, 87464 and 91322 batches. Among them 98, 71 and 151 batches were declared below quality criteria by EU member states with the rate being 0.10%, 0.08% and 0.17%.

These figures testify to the fact that more than 99% of Chinese food exports meet applicable standards which is in parallel with the rate of US food exports to China, even a little higher.

Data from countries and regions that import Chinese food also show that Chinese food exports are safe.

According to statistics of Australia, from April to September in 2006, the rate of Chinese food exports that passed quality standards was 98%, which averaged the rate of its total food imports.

Food products consumed in Hong Kong are mainly from mainland China. According to the two food safe reports issued this year by the Food Safety Centre of Hong Kong Food and Environment Hygiene Department, who conducted two random tests of food items on a large scale, its overall quality rating of food reached 99.2% and 99.6%.

II. Food safety supervision regime in China

China has a strict regime in place to monitor and supervise food exports.  Only companies that register with quality supervision and quarantine agencies are allowed to provide raw material to companies that manufacture exported foods, which in turn have to go through hygiene registration and are up to standards. The production procedure is monitored by quality supervision and quarantine agencies. Exporters are required to put labels on their products so that they could be traced or recalled for quality check. Before being exported, each and every batch of the products will be checked by Exit and Entry quality supervision and quarantine agencies. Only those who pass the check are given green light. If required by importing countries, official certificates will be issued by Exit and Entry quality supervision and quarantine agencies. In this way food exports safety is effectively ensured. In recent years, delegations from Europe, the US, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asian countries have inspected the food export supervision regime of China and have expressed satisfaction.

China has always attached great importance to opinions and feedbacks from importing countries and regions regarding quality and safety of Chinese food exports. In light of recent incidents, to further strengthen safety of food exports, the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in China has taken a series of additional measures. Firstly, checks and tests have been increased. When the exported items fail to match the export certificates, or are found to be problematic, they will be banned from exportation. Warning will be issued on the AQSIQ website so as to increase checks and tests on all food items produced by the company or declared by export agents. Companies that violate regulations will be put on the blacklist and barred from exportation. Secondly, random inspections will be increased of items like toothpaste that are not covered under compulsory checks. Thirdly, starting from September 1, 2007, all food exports that have passed quality inspection and quarantine checks are required to put labels on sale and transportation packages. Fourthly, immediate investigation and timely actions will be taken in response to information from importing countries and regions regarding unsafe food items. Fifthly, a blacklist of companies exporting unsafe products will be set up so as to crack down on illegal exports.

III. Calls for scientific and fair attitude

It is our hope that, on the basis of safeguarding bilateral cooperation and exchanges, governments concerned will properly handle food safety issue and treat Chinese food exports in a scientific and fair manner. Certain isolated cases should not be blown out of proportion to mislead the public into thinking that all food from China is unsafe. A case of Chinese company which violated laws and regulations should not be expanded to be the failure of the food safety regime of the Chinese Government. To exaggerate and complicate the issue is not conducive to healthy growth of bilateral trade, or to the overall bilateral relations. We hope that governments concerned can work together, in scientific and truth-seeking manner, to deal with food safety issue and to ensure health of the public.

 

 


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