Officials from international food safety authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Association for Food Protection, convened in Beijing on Wednesday and said they were encouraged by China's efforts to improve food safety.
"We are very encouraged that the Chinese government is taking the food safety issue very seriously and we know that the Chinese government has taken this seriously for a long time," said Jorgen Schlundt, director of the WHO department of food safety, zoonoses and foodborne diseases, at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference.
In view of recent media coverage of China's product quality and food safety issues, the government had taken a series of measures in the past month to ensure food security and reliability of Chinese products.
These measures include opening the national work meeting on product quality and food safety, issuing a white paper on food safety, establishing a national leading group on product quality and food safety, and launching recall systems for food and toys.
Li Changjiang, head of General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, reiterated that the Chinese government was very serious about solving its food safety issues, and had been exploring ways to improve its product quality and food safety.
"China is trying its best to address the problem of food safety," said the senior food and nutrition officer Biplab Nandi of the Asia and Pacific office of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Nandi added that China was an active and positive partner, and strengthening its food safety capacity had been listed a priority for the government.
China exports food to more than 200 countries and regions, and a total of 24.17 million tons valued at US$26.66 billion was exported in 2006.
Schlundt said developing countries in general were starting to improve food safety systems and China stood out as an example for other developing countries.
"We strongly believe that developing countries can learn from the mistakes that were started in developed countries 20 to 25 years ago and come past that into good food safety systems," said Schlundt.
Officials from international agencies also urged further strengthening global cooperation on food safety at the conference.
Frank Yiannas, president of International Association for Food Protection, said that facing unexpected food safety risks, all countries should fully prepare for new food safety issues and keep improving their food safety supervision systems, so as to reduce the foodborne diseases.
WHO statistics show that food and waterborne diseases have become a major threat to world health, leading to the deaths of 1.8 million people worldwide each year, most of whom are children.
(Xinhua News Agency September 13, 2007)