Press conference on forestalling inbound transmissions, strengthening supervision over imported cold-chain food

The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council held a press conference on July 10, 2020 in Beijing to brief the media on measures to forestall inbound COVID-19 transmissions and strengthen supervision over imported cold-chain food. July 14, 2020


Does China follow relevant international standards and rules in intensifying supervision over imported cold-chain food? Will the practice cause unnecessary disruptions to foreign trade? Thanks.

Li Xingqian:

Thank you for the questions. Your concern is also a common concern in the field of international trade. The COVID-19 outbreak is a serious threat to people's lives and health, which has seriously affected the economic and social order, production and life of countries across the world. Thanks to the hard work of the past half-year, the spread of the epidemic in China has been basically stopped, foreign trade has rebounded, but we are still facing the risk of viral resurgence. Especially, after the outbreak at the Xinfadi market in Beijing, the virus was found to have contaminated food or food packaging, and was found to have survived and spread during the transportation of frozen food. All these problems have drawn high attention. 

In this context, China has intensified supervision over imported cold-chain food to protect people's lives and health. Relevant practices are completely in line with international standards and rules. 

First, on April 7 this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization jointly released the COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses. Relevant authorities have intensified supervision over food in accordance with the guidance, asking enterprises to establish an effective food safety management mechanism, and take various prevention and control measures to ensure that products will in no way become contaminated by the coronavirus. China's relevant practices do follow guidelines and standards issued by authoritative international organizations.  

Secondly, it is specifically recognized in the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the "SPS Agreement") that members have the right to take sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human life or health. In cases where the relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a member may provisionally adopt necessary measures on the basis of available information. It is yet to be determined whether the novel coronavirus can survive and spread on food or food packaging through a cold chain. In such circumstances, China will step up supervision over cold-chain food on the basis of sufficient scientific assessment of risks, and apply it equally to domestic and foreign enterprises. These relevant practices are consistent with WTO rules.

At present, the global pandemic prevention and control is still at a critical stage. We are calling on food producers in relevant countries and regions to establish an effective food safety management system in strict accordance with the guidelines jointly issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the WHO. We all must take preventive measures to prevent exported food from being contaminated by the novel coronavirus and ensure the safety of food trade. Meanwhile, we shall abide by WTO rules, refrain from taking unnecessary trade restrictions and make joint efforts to maintain safety and stability of the international trade supply chain. Thanks.

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