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Diplomats agree food quality a global issue
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Foreign diplomats agreed yesterday that food safety and product quality is a common concern for all countries and called for better international cooperation, especially information exchange and setting standards.


"What we've learned in recent months is that product safety issues are no longer one country's problem, but a global problem. This requires a global approach and solution," Les Kumor, a counselor at the Canadian Embassy, said.


"Experience shows the best solution is always through dialogue, cooperation and practices complying with international rules and standards."


Kumor made the remarks at a round-table meeting with senior Chinese quality control officials, including Wei Chuanzhong, vice-minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), in Zhongshan, South China's Guangdong Province.


Diplomats were present from the European Commission and 14 countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Korea.


Peter Hewitt, a counselor at the Australian Embassy, said no country is immune to quality control problems and stressed all governments have a responsibility to improve the situation.


A report released on Tuesday by the inspection and quarantine bureau in Shenzhen, a major port city in Guangdong Province, backed up this thinking.


The report showed that so far this year, quarantine officers in the city had found 80 batches of unsafe frozen meat from other countries, much higher than the same period last year.


This year, officers in Shenzhen conducted two on-the-spot inspections on imported woven garments, and found 71 out of 81 samples were substandard because of unclear labels, erroneous PH values or excessive amounts of formaldehyde.


"While China is being criticized by foreign media for poor product quality, we see similar problems with products from their countries," the report said.


Hewitt said it was crucial to improve cooperation. He suggested countries should be more understanding and comply with common principles such as World Trade Organization rules. If possible, local standards should be consistent with international standards based on science.


Agricultural counselor at the US Embassy William Westman told Wei on Tuesday his country was willing to share information, clarify issues and offer technical support to China at anytime in the future.


In response, Wei said future cooperation would focus on the discussion of design and setting standards. He said China would also learn from other countries' experience in improving quality.


Jorgen Schlundt, director of the food safety department of the World Health Organization (WHO), said earlier this month that problems in emerging countries had been well documented.


The round table meeting was part of a four-day tour the AQSIQ organized to offer diplomats a fair picture of Chinese manufacturing. During the ongoing tour, starting on Tuesday in Guangdong, diplomats were shown toy and garment factories, vegetable farms and testing laboratories.


"The tour improves our comprehension of your systems," Raimondo Serra, a counselor with the European Commission, said.


"I've repeatedly heard the phrase 'quality should start at the source', and these words are like music to my ears," he said, adding that this was a EU principle.


(China Daily September 27, 2007)


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