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China to Establish Food Recall System
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China will release the country's first regulation on food recall by the end of this year as part of its efforts to improve food safety, a senior official has said.

The move by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) comes in response to a recent spate of food safety scandals.

Wu Jianping, director general of the food production and supervision department of the administration, told China Daily that the recall system mainly targets potentially dangerous and unapproved food products.

The regulation - whose final draft will be ready by the end of the year and will be in line with international practices - stipulates that food production and sales companies should take back their products which are confirmed to endanger people's health, Wu said.

"All domestic and foreign food producers and distributors will be obliged to follow the system," he said.

Until now, only one section in a regulation on product inspection - issued in 2002 - touches upon food recall and the need for such a system.

Among major food recall cases are enterobacter sakazakii-affected Wyeth milk powder in 2002 and Sudan-red related products in 2005.

"Implementing the recall system for all food products will be a gradual process," Wu emphasized.

Despite tainted-food scandals in recent years, the official said the quality of food products in China has been improving, especially after the country set standards for food-related products in 2002.

To date, more than 525 kinds of food products in 28 categories, and more than 80,000 food enterprises have acquired market access permits.

This year, another seven categories, such as food utensils, additives, detergents, and disinfectants, will be required to get market permits.

In a related development, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) plans to blacklist food producers who break rules, and serious violators could be barred from the market.

The SFDA yesterday launched a nationwide campaign on drug safety inspection. From May 28 to June 8, a total of 90 officials will be sent to 15 provinces.

Meanwhile, another senior official from the AQSIQ has warned foreign businesses not to import illegally exported products from China.

The warning follows recent reports of some poor-quality Chinese products entering foreign markets.

Li Yuanping, director general of the Bureau of Import and Export Food Safety, AQSIQ, said China imposes tight controls on food exports.

"No food products are allowed to be exported before passing a full range of checks by China Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine officials.

"And foreign importers need to especially make sure that the products they are buying are in compliance with all requirements," Li told China Daily.

More than 56 percent of all substandard food products imported by the US from China in April were "illegal products" that failed to meet US quality guidelines, according to the AQSIQ.

"It is these illegal products that have tarnished the reputation of all Chinese food products," Li said.

Li made the comments after returning from the US where he had "effective communication" with his counterparts. He said better cooperation mechanisms are needed between China, the US and other key import nations to weed out illegal players.

All legally exported Chinese food products should meet key requirements before being exported, he said.

Raw food producers must be registered with food safety authorities before being allowed to supply their products to food processors. Food export companies have to be registered with AQSIQ, maintain high safety standards, and are subject to rigorous inspections by CIQ officials.

Each batch of goods must pass official inspections before being sent abroad, and export certificates are given where needed.

But some importing countries, such as the US, do not require that the imported products come from officially registered plants with official certificates, which makes illegal imports possible, he said.

(China Daily May 29, 2007)

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