Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has ended compulsory inspections of frozen spinach exported by eight Chinese companies, said China's top quality control agency.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said Wednesday that the ministry would still conduct regular inspections of the companies' frozen spinach.
Another eight companies will still be subject to compulsory inspection but would only have to submit eight samples per container instead of 16. Submitting fewer samples will speed customs processing and reduce the exporters' costs.
This is the first time that Japan has eased compulsory inspections of Chinese vegetable shipments.
Officials from the AQSIQ said the move was a result of communication and cooperation between the two countries. During his recent visit to China, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda discussed the food safety issue with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and called for more exchanges and cooperation in this regard.
Citing excessive chlorpyrifos in frozen spinach, Japan issued a regulation in May 2003, which stipulated that its importers would be responsible for any problematic frozen spinach from China. The regulation led to a de facto suspension of frozen spinach import from China.
AQSIQ stepped up supervision of frozen spinach preparation, and China consulted with the Japanese ministry. Japanese experts also visited the companies. Following those steps, Japan in June 2004 dropped the accountability regulation on Japanese importers of frozen spinach from 45 Chinese companies and imposed compulsory inspections. Every container had 16 samples sent for inspection, and the inspection fee reached 800,000 yen (7,080 U.S. dollars).
Since June 2004, no chlorpyrifos residue has been found in the 1,235 batches of frozen spinach exported to Japan from China.
AQSIQ said it would continue to step up supervision of Chinese spinach exports and increase consultations with Japan, in a bid to end compulsory inspections for the remaining 37 companies as soon as possible.
(Xinhua News Agency January 3, 2008)