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China, Indonesia Agree on Food Safety Issues
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Indonesian authorities yesterday acknowledged that formaldehyde exists naturally in food and agreed to conduct further investigations into its recent "public warnings" about allegedly contaminated Chinese food products, a visiting delegation said in Beijing.


"Both sides agreed to treat products from both countries on a non-discriminatory basis," the minutes of meetings between the delegation and China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said.


The Indonesian team, consisting of members from three state institutions, said it "regretted the report" published by the Jakarta Times on August 28, which accused China of exporting "contaminated" food.


"There was no intention by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to discredit China," the minutes said.


Halida Miljani, head of the Indonesian delegation, endorsed the "open and honest" discussion between the two parties, adding that as a consumer herself, she considered Chinese products were of a "very good quality".


For its part, the AQSIQ said China "will positively consider" lifting the temporary suspension of Indonesian aquatic products after evaluation of the country's measures to improve the safety and sanitary conditions of such exports to China.


A memorandum of understanding is expected to be finalized and signed during the China ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine next month in Nanning, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.


Furthermore, both sides agreed to set up a long-term cooperation mechanism to properly handle similar matters on the safety of food imports and exports.


Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) issued two separate warning letters on Chinese food products in late July and early August on so-called "formaldehyde contaminated" sweets and toothpaste imported from China.


According to the BPOM, seven of 39 Chinese products tested positive in July for formaldehyde. The products were seized by Indonesian authorities during raids on food stores, creating panic among local Chinese businesses.


On August 2, the agency issued another public warning and banned a further 42 brands of Chinese candy for the same reason.


In another development, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu yesterday contested a Washington Post report saying China pushed shoddy products to Indonesia.


The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted an official with Indonesia's food and drug safety agency as saying China suggested Indonesia lower its safety standards. The story also accused China of taking advantage of its aid and investment to push shoddy products and inferior standards on poor countries.


"A certain report in the Washington Post was sheer fabrication," Jiang said.


According to Jiang, a large Indonesian government delegation arrived in Beijing on Wednesday and had talks with Chinese food safety authorities. The Indonesian side has denied the Washington Post report, Jiang said.


"The exports from and imports to China all abide by Chinese laws, regulations and quality standards, as well as rules in exporting regions," she said.


"It is discriminatory to have different export quality standards based on the strength of trade partners, which China never does and opposes any other country doing."


(China Daily September 7, 2007)


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