V. International Exchanges and Cooperation Regarding Food Safety
The Chinese government sets great store by cooperating with other countries, regions and international organizations regarding food safety, as well as by learning advanced management expertise and monitoring technology, to improve the overall quality of its foodstuffs.
1. Strengthening Exchanges and Cooperation Regarding Food Safety Technology
China encourages and supports its technical experts to participate in various food safety technological training programs, seminars, exchanges and comparative reviews. It also welcomes overseas experts to visit China for study or training. Besides the activities organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), China has, since 2001, conducted many rounds of technological training and exchanges on food safety, especially the implementation of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), with the US, the EU, Italy, Canada, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. In August 2006, China sponsored food safety training for people from 14 South Pacific countries. To furnish itself with timely information to ensure the foodstuffs it exports are up to the relevant standards, China has translated the laws on food safety and hygiene of the US, the EU, Russia, the ROK and other countries and regions. It has also invited experts from the US, the EU and Japan to offer training on HACCP application, the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), residue control and Positive List System. China's laboratories for import and export food inspection and quarantine have taken part in several comparative experiments, such as the Food Analysis Performance Assessment Scheme (FAPAS) of the UK, and joined on regular intervals the international proficiency testing conducted by established certification agencies, such as the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC) and the Australia's National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA). The national center for disease control and prevention and a dozen provincial ones have passed the WHO food safety inspection capacity verifications. By November 2006, a total of 22 inspection agencies had been granted by the ROK to be "Acknowledged Overseas Official Inspection Agencies," which means that the food items that pass their checks will be free from entry inspection in that country. The testing results of the laboratories of the 35 quality inspection and quarantine agencies directly under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine have also won acknowledgement from Japan, and many of the laboratories are open ones and have hosted delegations of experts from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the ROK, Singapore, Hong Kong, as well as other countries and regions.
2. Actively Participating in International Activities Regarding Food Safety
The Chinese government has always been a keen advocator of and participant in international food safety activities. It has dispatched delegations to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other international conferences. Its call for regional cooperation on food safety at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has received positive responses from Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asian countries, as a result of which the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum was established, co-chaired by China and Australia. China actively participates in international standardization activities for food safety. It is a member of the Technical Management Board and Committee on Conformity Assessment of International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In May 2007, it formally joined the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). On October 20-21, 2007, it will host, in Nanning, the China-ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, with the theme of "Strengthening Cooperation on Food Safety Management and Protecting Consumer's Rights." The event will discuss the establishment of a cooperative mechanism on food safety, so as to increase exchanges and cooperation among the relevant departments of China and ASEAN to ensure the quality, safety and sanitation of the foods traded among them.
3. Striving to Promote International Cooperation Regarding Food Safety
While organizing regular and irregular seminars or mutual visits of experts with Japan, the ROK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Norway, Russia, Hong Kong, and other countries and regions, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has signed 33 cooperative agreements or memorandums on food safety and 48 import and export food inspection and quarantine protocols with 30 countries and regions, namely the US, the EU, Russia, Japan, the ROK, Singapore, Thailand, Mongolia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong and Macao. Thus, a long-term and effective cooperative mechanism between China and its food trade partners has been established. And, based on this, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has built a system of annual meetings with many countries and regions. The second China-EU meeting on safety of food and consumer products at the ministerial level is scheduled to be held on September 12, 2007 in Beijing, and the third China-US food safety meeting at the vice-ministerial level is scheduled on September 11-12, 2007 in the US.
4. Promoting Food Trade
The food safety cooperative mechanisms established between China and other countries have greatly promoted bilateral and multilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of foodstuffs traded among them and ease the wide concerns about food safety. For instance, the Sino-Japanese cooperative mechanism plays a key role in ensuring the safety of Chinese food exported to Japan. After Japan's release of its Positive List System, the Chinese government, through communications and negotiations, persuaded Japan to accept its reasonable proposals and adjust some projects accordingly, and co-sponsored three demonstrations and eight special training workshops to help China's food export enterprises further standardize the use and administration of pesticide and veterinary medicines, improve the quality tracing system and guarantee the quality and safety of food exported to Japan. The China-US food safety cooperative mechanism plays a similar role. Since the end of 2005, China's entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities have continuously found residues of prohibited medicines, pollutants and pathogenic microbes in US meat products exported to China. Their timely notification of such information let the US learn of China's legal requirements concerning food safety, thus effectively protecting Chinese consumers as well as ensuring healthy development of US export of meat products to China. In 2004 and 2005, the two countries, under this cooperative mechanism, evaluated the safety and sanitation of China's exported cooked poultry products. The China-EU food safety cooperative mechanism also works well in solving problems both sides are concerned about. Through timely communication and on the basis of risk assessment, China has solved problems in the import of pork products from some dioxin-affected EU countries. While continuously improving its own food safety management and epidemic prevention and control work, it has actively cooperated with the EU in undertaking hygienic system inspection and risk appraisal which helps build confidence in China's cooked poultry products. The EU has worked out a timetable to resume imports of China's cooked poultry products in 2007.
Food is the first necessity of man, and it is the most direct and most important consumption product of mankind. China is a responsible country, and the Chinese government is devoted to working for the benefits of the people. Over the years, the Chinese government has endeavored to improve food quality, ensure food safety and protect consumers around the world. But, it must be pointed out that China is still a developing country, and the overall level of food safety, including the standards and the industrialization level of food production, still lags behind that of developed countries. China has a long way to go to improve the quality of foodstuffs. Food quality and safety is a common concern of the human society and a shared duty of the international community. As a large importer and exporter of food, China is keen to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries and make unremitting efforts to ensure the safety of food and promote the healthy growth of the global food trade.