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New Criteria Set for Food Safety

China is working on a series of technical standards to minimize pesticide residues and other hazards in food and fabrics, agriculture and science ministries sources told China Daily.

"We are putting the final touches on 69 national standards to cap chemical residues and other hazards in agricultural products in the course of production, processing, storage and transport," said He Yibing, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture.


Unprecedented efforts to set up technical benchmarks and testing procedures for primary agro-products in China cater to the public's appetite for safer farm produce and higher quality food, said Fang Qing, vice-president of the China National Institute of Standardization.


It also facilitates the implementation of a market access system for food products and serves the country's intention to expand agricultural trade, he said.


"Development of technical standards, especially analytical methods, will give quality watchdogs a yardstick to measure whether there are direct or potential risks in agricultural products."


Previous analytical methods for farm produce in the country need to be improved, so as to meet the parameters set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the global food standards developer, sources of the Ministry of Science and Technology said.


The standardization work is spearheaded by the Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, and joined by 18 other institutions including Wuxi Scientific Researching and Designing Institute of the State Administration of Grain Reserve, and Cotton Research Institute under Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.


The massive standardization work, initiated in November 2003, is scheduled to be completed in 2005, with most standards effective within the year, said He Yibing, also senior engineer with the Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals.


It will guide producers and processors to work in a way that strikes a balance between environmental protection, social and economic benefits, a Ministry of Science and Technology statement said.


Half of the standards in the pipeline set maximum residue limits (MRLs) in rice, corn and tea, target hazardous substances like ochratoxin (a cancer-inducing toxic compound) that may taint wheat, soybean and peanuts when stored and transported, and puts a ceiling on heavy metals in irrigating water, He said.


In particular, 21 standards will detail maximum residue limits of new pesticides that have been applied on crops in China in recent years, he said.


The standard makers will also take a hard look at fertilizers, pesticides and plant regulators that have been used in the production and processing of cotton, hemp and silk to establish maximum residue limits and make standards for control of harmful substances in the fabric products, he said.


"We have adopted internationally popular risk analysis principles and guidelines to determine our maximum residue limits," he said.


To be specific, the technical regulations for food and fabric storage and transport are made in line with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), he said.


With the guidance of the preventive system, Chinese researchers examine and analyze every stage of farm produce production and processing, to determine potentially unsafe links -- "critical control points" -- at which action is required to control identified hazards.


The new national standards are expected to boost China's agricultural trade, since safety and quality concerns, especially about residual chemicals, have been cited as an excuse by some countries to keep out Chinese farm exports, experts said.


(China Daily January 29, 2005)




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