III. Supervision of Imported and Exported Food
1. Supervision of Imported Food
Exploration and practice over the years have enabled China to set up a complete framework of food quality and safety supervisory system and guarantee measures to ensure the safety of imported food.
-- Scientific risk management system. According to the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and common international practice, the Chinese government adopts an inspection and quarantine entry system based on risk management for high-risk imported food, such as meat and vegetable, which includes: making a risk analysis on the high-risk food that the exporting country applies to export to China; signing an inspection and quarantine agreement with the exporting country on food involving acceptable risks; carrying out hygiene registration for foreign food enterprises; and quarantining, examining and approving the imported food of animal and plant origin. If epidemic animal or plant diseases or severe food safety problems occur in the exporting country, China shall take timely risk management measures, including suspending food imports from that country.
-- Strict inspection and quarantine system. When imported food arrives at the port of entry, the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities carry out inspection and quarantine in accordance with law, and approve the foodstuffs to be imported only if they meet the required standards; and the customs house clears the imported food upon the strength of the Customs Clearance List of Inward/Outward Goods as issued by the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities. Only then can the food be sold in the Chinese market. If safety or hygienic problems are found in the food when inspected and quarantined, corresponding measures are immediately taken. In 2006, Chinese entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities altogether found 2,458 batches of foodstuffs not meeting the standards at ports of entry. In the first half of 2007, some 896 were found, which were returned, destroyed or used in other ways according to law. Thus is the safety of food imported for the Chinese market assured.
-- Complete quality and safety supervisory system. While carrying out inspection and quarantine in accordance with law, the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities pay special attention to higher-risk food and problematic foodstuffs as found in the inspection and quarantine at the ports of entry. The authorities promptly issue early warnings of risks when finding imported food with serious problems or the same type of imported food with repeated problems, and take such measures as increasing the proportion of sample survey, adding more items for inspection, and suspending import.
-- Strict system against illegal import. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the General Administration of Customs have set up a cooperation mechanism to jointly fight illegal food imports. In 2006, China signed with the European Union Commission the Arrangement for Cooperation on Joint Prevention of Illegal Actions in the Import and Export of Food, making it clear that the two sides will crack down on such illegal activities as deception, undeclared carrying, illegal transit and smuggling through exchanges of information, technological cooperation, mutual visits of experts and special joint actions. In 2006 and the first half of 2007, 12,292 tons of illegally imported meat were seized.
2. Supervision of Exported Food
Following the principle of "prevention first, supervision at the source, and control throughout the process," the Chinese government has set up and improved an export-food safety management framework composed of "one pattern and ten systems."
"One pattern" refers to the managerial pattern for the production of export food -- "enterprise + base + standardization." This pattern conforms to China's reality and the actual situation in the field of export food, and thus is an important guarantee for the quality of such food. Besides, it is the only way for enterprises to aim for scale and intensive development in the international market. With unremitting efforts over many years, China has basically put this pattern in place for major export food items, especially high-risk foodstuffs such as meat, aquatic products and vegetable.
The "ten systems" are: three for supervision at the source -- the archiving management system for the inspection and quarantine of planting and breeding bases, the epidemic disease monitoring system, and the supervisory system for pesticide and veterinary medicine residue; three for factory supervision -- the hygiene registration system, the classified management system for enterprises, and the resident quarantine official system for large enterprises producing high-risk food for export; three for product supervision -- the legal inspection and quarantine system for export food, the system of quality tracing and substandard products recalling, and the early risk warning and quick response system; and one for credit building -- a red list and a blacklist for food export enterprises.
-- Strengthening supervision of planting and breeding at the source. To effectively control the risks of animal epidemics, plant diseases and pesticide and veterinary medicine residue, and guarantee food quality and safety and traceability at the source, the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities adopt the archiving management system for the inspection and quarantine of export food material bases with such risks. Only the raw materials of planting and breeding bases with archiving approval can be used in processed export food, and all the raw material bases with archiving approval are publicized on the website of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. So far, 6,031 breeding farms and 380,000 hectares of planting bases have obtained such approval. For these bases, the relevant agencies strengthen supervision, prevention and control of epidemic diseases, exercise tight management of agricultural input materials, and enforce a strict supervision system over pesticide and veterinary medicine residue, so that these problems are brought under effective control. In recent years, bird flu has been found in many places around the world, but none at the bases under archiving management in China.
-- Strengthening supervision of food producing enterprises. China has adopted a hygiene registration system for all enterprises producing export food, and an enterprise has to be granted such registration before engaging in the production of export food. So far, 12,714 enterprises have been registered, among which 3,698 have passed the HACCP certification of the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities. The local entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities carry out routine supervision and administration of the registered food producing and processing enterprises in a unified way to ensure that the raw materials come from archived planting and breeding bases, and that the production and processing meet the required standards. As regards large enterprises producing or processing high-risk export food such as meat, the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities send resident officials to supervise them when needed. The packaging of export food should be labeled with traceable signs according to requirements, so as to ensure the traceability of the products and recall of substandard products.
-- Strengthening inspection and quarantine before the food is exported. As prescribed by Chinese laws, all food should meet the standards set by the inspection and quarantine authorities before being exported, and the customs houses at the ports of exit should clear the export food upon the strength of the Customs Clearance List of Outward Goods issued by the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities. If it is demanded by the importing country, the relevant entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities should issue a hygiene certificate to prove that the food meets the required standards, and enter on the certificate the name, address, number of hygiene registration of the producing enterprise, date of production, date of export, loading port and destination port. When the goods arrive at the port of exit, the inspection and quarantine authorities at the port should examine the goods again, making sure they are intact and conform to the information on the certificate. All these measures guarantee the traceability of the food.
-- Strengthening the construction of the export enterprise credit system. An export enterprise quality undertaking system and a red list and blacklist system for export enterprises are implemented in a comprehensive way, and efforts are being made to increase the awareness of the persons primarily responsible for product quality and help enterprises to form a mechanism of self-management, self-discipline and consciousness of operation in good faith. Included on the List of Sound Enterprises are those with a complete and effective control system, good faith, effective control over safety risks, and a good reputation in the importing countries. Such enterprises are granted favorable policy treatment. Enterprises with serious quality problems as reported by the importing countries or regions, or which have avoided inspection and quarantine or cheated the inspection and quarantine authorities are punished in accordance with the law and included in the List of Unlawful Enterprises and publicized on the Internet so as to enhance the self-disciplinary awareness of enterprises producing export food. So far, 55 enterprises have been put on the list.
Over the years, the departments of quality supervision and inspection, trade, customs, industry and commerce, and taxation have worked closely to promote the quality and safety level of food exported from China and satisfy numerous Chinese and foreign customers with high-quality, delicious and inexpensive foodstuffs. Yet, there are still a tiny number of enterprises that disregard the law, regulations and standards of China and importing countries and, by deception or fraud, avoid supervision by the inspection and quarantine authorities, or export food by improper channels. Consequently, some adulterated, counterfeit or shoddy foodstuffs have found their way from China into foreign markets. The Chinese government is determined to step up the fight against such activities and prevent substandard foodstuffs from going overseas.