The European Union respects the measures the Chinese government has taken recently to improve food safety, but the actual results are what is most important, said an EU food safety official in Beijing yesterday.
European Commissioner for Health Markos Kyprianou commented: "We see a movement (here in China). We see a commitment to improving the situation. However, at the end of the day, what makes the difference is the actual results."
He welcomed the creation of a special food safety leadership team, explaining that one of the problems in China is the fragmentation of the food safety control system and the new leadership team will work with better collaboration.
He noted that with an increased volume of trade between China and the EU, there is also an increase in the interceptions of products that do not meet the standards.
"This cannot be justified by the increase in trade and therefore we will seize the opportunity to discuss with the Chinese government what steps will be taken to improve the situation," the official said.
"The European Union has an obligation to ensure any product that reaches the European consumers meets the same food safety standards," he stressed, and "the provision is applied objectively and equally. It concerns both products produced in Europe, products imported to Europe, and products meant for export."
He explained that the EU takes a step-by-step approach in tackling food safety problems of imported products. "While taking certain control measures ourselves, we will at the same time give the opportunity, if no immediate risk is caused, to the authorities of the exporting countries to correct the situation."
"However," he warned, "if the situation is not improved, the EU may have to take stricter measures. We may have to ban the import of specific products. It's a risk-based approach and it's on an item-by-item, product-by-product basis."
"Therefore," he continued, "we will be following very closely and monitoring the situation, especially through our Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and find the number of cases of products that do not meet the requirements."
However, introducing a ban will be the last resort EU will take, he promised. "It's not the first step unless it causes immediate threat to human health."
In 2006, China was the most notified country in the EU's RASFF, with over 260 food safety problems relating to Chinese products.
In a meeting with Li Changjiang, director of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, yesterday, both sides agreed to reduce the figure and Kyprianou expressed the EU's willingness to provide any support necessary to achieve this goal.
In the past two days, Kyprianou also met with health and food safety officials in Shanghai and Beijing.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Yuan Fang, September 13, 2007)