The State Council Information Office published on Friday a white paper entitled The Quality and Safety of Food in China. The document, composed of five chapters, describes the Chinese government's efforts in enhancing the level of food quality and improving the situation of food safety over the past years. The full text of the white paper follows:
The Quality and Safety of Food in China
I. Food Production and Food Quality
II. Food Safety Regulatory System and Work
III. Supervision of Imported and Exported Food
IV. Law Regime and Technological Guarantee System for Food Safety
V. International Exchanges and Cooperation Regarding Food Safety
The quality and safety of food is a major benchmark of the economic development and people's living conditions of a country. Adhering to the people-oriented approach, the Chinese government has always attached great importance to food quality and safety. Moreover, sticking to the principle of nipping problems in the bud, it has built and improved a supervisory system and mechanism for food safety, strengthened legislation and the setting of relevant standards, exercised strict quality control regarding food, actively promoted international exchanges and cooperation in this respect, and has greatly raised public awareness of food safety. Thanks to such efforts, the overall level of food quality in China is being steadily enhanced, the situation of food safety is continuously improving, and the order in food production and operation have markedly turned for the better.
I. Food Production and Food Quality
1. The Quality and Safety Level of Processed Food Is Steadily Improving
(1) Rapid and Sound Development of the Food-processing Industry
In recent years, China's food industry has maintained fast and sound growth, with a steady increase in economic benefits. Foodstuffs can be classified by their raw materials and processing techniques into 525 kinds in 28 categories: processed grain products; edible oil, fat and fat products; seasonings; meat products; dairy products; soft drinks; convenient food; biscuits; canned food; iced drinks; fast-frozen food; potato and dilated food; candies (including chocolate and chocolate products); tea; alcoholic beverages; vegetable products; fruit products; roasted seeds and nuts; egg products; cocoa and bakery coffee products; sugar; processed aquatic products; starch and starch products; pastries; bean products; bee products; special diet food, and others. At present, China has 448,000 enterprises engaged in foodstuff production and processing. Among them, 26,000 enterprises of designated scale 1 occupy 72 percent of the market, taking the leading role in terms of output and sales revenue; 69,000 are enterprises not up to the designated scale and those with more than ten employees, taking up a market share of 18.7 percent; and 353,000 are small businesses or workshops with fewer than ten employees, with a market share of 9.3 percent. (See Table 1)
Refering to private industrial enterprises with annual revenue of two million yuan or more and all state-owned industrial enterprises, as well as private commercial enterprises with annual revenue of five million yuan or more and all state-owned commercial enterprises. — Tr.
Statistics show that, in 2006, industrial food enterprises of designated scale generated 2,158.695 billion yuan of output value (excluding tobacco), accounting for 6.8 percent of the national industrial output value, and up 23.5 percent year on year. The average annual industrial added value and profit of processing enterprises of grain, oil, meat and dairy products all exceeded 20 percent. The output of major foodstuffs in 2006 were: wheat flour, 51.93 million tons; edible vegetable oil, 19.855 million tons; fresh frozen meat, 11.125 million tons; dairy products, 14.596 million tons; beer, 35.152 million kl; and soft drinks, 42.198 million tons. These figures show rises of 28.2 percent, 17.5 percent, 24.0 percent, 23.5 percent, 14.7 percent and 21.5 percent year on year, respectively. In the first six months of 2007, the accumulated output value of the food industry amounted to 1,281.62 billion yuan, up 29.9 percent as compared with the corresponding period last year. The output of beer, edible oil, soft drinks and gourmet powder led the world.
At present, the development of China's food industry displays the following features:
One, the processing techniques and equipment of some food enterprises reach or approach the advanced international level. Large meat, dairy product, beverage and beer producers all have world first-class production and testing facilities, which guarantees the quality of their products. The development and application of such key processing techniques as membrane-separation technology, physical property modification, cold-aseptic filling, concentration and cold processing has narrowed China's gap with the world advanced level in terms of processing technology and equipment.
Two, quality control of the enterprises has become more scientific and standard. So far, 107,000 food producers have obtained market access permits regarding quality and safety, and 2,675 have been granted hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) certificates.
Three, the structure of products is being improved to cater to the increasingly diverse demands of consumers. The proportion of intensively or deeply processed foodstuffs to the total output of foodstuffs keeps increasing. For instance, liquid dairies now account for more than 85 percent of the total output of dairy products; colas no longer dominate the market, as a result of the mushrooming of packed drinking water and fruit, vegetable and tea drinks; special flour above second grade accounts for 65 percent of the total output of wheat flour; standard rice above first grade accounts for 88 percent of the total output of rice, and special rice for 33.9 percent of the total output of rice; and Grades I and II oil (salad oil and quality culinary oil according to previous national standards) accounts for 58.5 percent of the total output of edible vegetable oil.
(2) Continuous Improvement of Food Quality
One, the acceptance rate of foodstuffs on the whole is steadily rising. The rate was 77.9 percent in the 2006 national foodstuffs sample survey, and it rose to 85.1 percent in a similar survey in the first half of 2007. The level of food quality and safety remains stable, with a gradual upturn. (See Table 2)
Table 2 Acceptance rate of foodstuffs in sample surveys from 2005 to June 2007
Two, the quality of food produced nationwide is improving. In the first half of 2007, the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government on the mainland of China reported an average 89.2-percent acceptance rate of foodstuffs, and the figure in 14 of them surpassed 90 percent.
Three, the quality of food in key sectors is fairly high. Thanks to the country's endeavors to improve the work of food producers and processors, the quality of 525 kinds of foodstuffs in 28 categories has been enhanced to various degrees, with remarkable progress in the quality of food with a large daily consumption. According to statistics, the ten foodstuffs with the largest consumption are edible oil, fat and fat products; alcoholic beverages; aquatic products; processed grain products; soft drinks; meat products; dairy products; seasonings; starch and starch products; and sugar. In the first half of 2007, sample surveys showed a 90-percent or higher acceptance rate of all the above ten foodstuffs except aquatic products, whose acceptance rate was 85 percent. That of meat products was 97.6 percent. (See Table 3)
Table 3 Acceptance rate of the ten most-consumed foodstuffs in the first half of 2007
(3) Quality Food Dominating the Market
Along with the development of the food industry, the scale of food producers keeps growing, production is becoming more concentrated, and the quality of foodstuffs of large and medium-sized producers is sound. In 2006, the top 100 revenue earners held 24.9 percent of the total sales of the food industry; the top ten dairy producers generated 54.7 percent of the total revenue of the dairy industry; the top ten soft-drink producers generated 39.5 percent of the total output of that industry; the top ten sugar makers produced 43.6 percent of the total output of the sugar industry; the top 50 meat producers accounted for 70 percent of that industry in terms of production capacity and sales; the eight beer brewery groups, each with a production capacity of over one million kl, produced 57 percent of the national beer output; the ten largest wineries produced 62.1 percent of the national output; and the three largest instant noodle producers occupied 76 percent of the Chinese market.
2. The Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products Is Steadily Improving
(1) Fast Growth of High-quality and Safe Brands
Quality agricultural products are steadily expanding their market. Agricultural standardization has been notably enhanced, which increases farmers' income and changes their farming patterns. Hazard-free, green and organic products make up 90 percent of all agricultural-product exports. Over the past five years, the export of green food has shot up 40 percent annually, and has been accepted by over 40 of China's trading partners. So far, China has developed 28,600 kinds of hazard-free agricultural products, and set up 24,600 hazard-free production bases with a total area of 21.07 million hectares. Five thousand three hundred and fifteen Chinese enterprises use the green food logo on their 14,339 kinds of products totaling 72 million tons and grown on 10 million hectares of land. In addition, 600 producers use the organic food logo on their 2,647 kinds of products totaling 19.56 million tons and grown on 3.11 million hectares of land. Altogether, there are 539 state-level agricultural demonstration zones, 100 demonstration counties (farms) and nearly 3,500 provincial-level demonstration zones, with a combined growing area exceeding 33.33 million hectares.
(2) Acceptance Rate of Agricultural Products Rising Continuously
Inspections in the first half of 2007 showed that the average acceptance rate regarding pesticide residues in vegetables was 93.6 percent; those regarding clenbuterol hydrochloride contamination and sulfa drug residues in livestock products was 98.8 percent and 99.0 percent respectively; and that regarding chloromycetin in aquatic products was 99.6 percent, of nitrofuran 91.4 percent, and of pesticide residue over 95 percent in sample surveys done at production bases.
3. The Quality of Imported and Exported Foodstuffs Stays High
China is a large importer and exporter of foodstuffs, with the amount of each growing steadily in recent years. The import and export volume in 2006 totaled US$40.448 billion-worth (excluding wheat, corn and soybean, same below), up 21.45 percent year on year. (See Table 4)
Table 4 China's food import and export volumes in 2005 and 2006
(1) Safety of Export Food Guaranteed
In 2006, China exported 24.173 million tons of food, worth US$26.659 billion, up 13.29 percent and 16.0 percent year on year, respectively. The top ten varieties in terms of export value were aquatic products, processed aquatic products, vegetables, canned food, juices and drinks, processed grain products, seasonings, poultry products, alcoholic beverages, and livestock meat and chopped entrails. (See Table 5)
Table 5 Top ten food varieties in terms of export value in 2006 as compared with 2005
Foodstuffs of the mainland of China have been exported to more than 200 countries and regions, of which the top ten in terms of trade volume are Japan, the US, the ROK, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Malaysia, Holland, Indonesia and the UK. (See Table 6)
Table 6 Top ten countries and region in terms of China's export value of food in 2006 as compared with 2005
For many years, over 99 percent of China's exported foodstuffs have been up to standard. In 2006 and the first half of 2007, China exported to the US some 94,000 batches and 55,000 batches of foodstuffs, respectively, and 752 batches and 477 batches of each were found by the US to be substandard, making the acceptance rate 99.2 percent and 99.1 percent, respectively. In the case of the EU, the figures were 91,000 batches and 62,000 batches, with 91 batches and 135 batches found by the EU to be substandard, making the acceptance rate 99.9 percent and 99.8 percent, respectively. On July 20, 2007, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, the largest importer of Chinese food, released an examination report on food imported from China in 2006, which showed that Japan conducted more sample surveys on Chinese food (15.7 percent) than on food from anywhere else, but Chinese food had the highest acceptance rate (99.42 percent), followed by that imported from the EU (99.38 percent) and the US (98.69 percent). The mainland of China is a major supplier of food for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Two large food sample surveys conducted by Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in the first half of 2007 showed that the acceptance rate stood at 99.2 percent and 99.6 percent, respectively.
(2) Quality of Imported Food Stable
In 2006, China imported 20.273 million tons of food, worth US$13.396 billion, up 37.94 percent and 25.11 percent year on year, respectively. The top ten varieties in terms of import value were vegetable oil, aquatic products, cereals, sugar, dairy products, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and associated products, poultry and chopped entrails, oil crops, and processed grain products. (See Table 7)
Table 7 Top ten food varieties in terms of import value in 2006 as compared with 2005
China imports foodstuffs from 143 countries and regions, and the top ten in terms of trade value are Malaysia, Russia, the US, Indonesia, Argentina, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and France. (See Table 8)
Table 8 Top ten countries in terms of China's import value of food in 2006 as compared with 2005
For many years, the quality of food China imports has been fairly stable, and no serious hazard has been caused by imported food. During the period from 2004 to the first half of 2007, the acceptance rate of imported food, according to statistics released by the ports of entry, were 99.29 percent (2004), 99.46 percent (2005), 99.11 percent (2006) and 99.29 percent (first half of 2007), respectively.
II. Food Safety Regulatory System and Work
To ensure food safety, the Chinese government adheres to the principle of giving priority to prevention and control at its root by monitoring and controlling the whole process, and has formed a regulatory format in which the local governments take the responsibility, related departments provide guidance and conduct coordination, and different sectors make concerted efforts under the unified national leadership. In response to the circumstances in China, the State Council issued the Decision on Further Strengthening Food Safety Supervision in 2004, according to which one monitoring link is supervised by one department; sectional supervision is adopted as the main means while supervision of different varieties as the supplementary means, making clearer the functions and responsibilities of the food safety supervisory departments. The Decision divided food safety supervision into four links, managed by the departments of agriculture, quality supervision and inspection, industry and commerce, and health, respectively. The production of primary agricultural products is supervised by the agriculture department, the quality and daily hygiene supervision of food processing is overseen by the quality supervision and inspection department, supervision of food circulation and distribution is done by the department of industry and commerce, and that of the catering industry and canteens is taken care of by the health department. The integrated food-safety supervision and coordination, and investigation of and penalties imposed for major incidents in this regard are the responsibility of the department of food and drug administration, while imported and exported agricultural products and other foodstuffs are supervised by the quality supervision and inspection department. In this way, there is a strict, complete regulatory system for food safety supervision in which the departments concerned work in close cooperation, with clearly defined functions and responsibilities.
As it is a prolonged and arduous task to strengthen food safety control, a regulatory system and a lasting efficiency mechanism should be established and improved, and planned with consideration given to both present and future needs to deal with both the symptoms and root causes of food safety problems, especially the latter.
The Chinese government stresses food safety from the source, improvement of the related basic regulatory systems, and strengthening of food safety supervision.
1. Intensifying Supervision on the Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products
In 2001, China started to implement the Hazard-free Food Action Plan, focusing on the control of residue of high-toxic pesticides in vegetables and clenbuterol hydrochloride contamination in livestock products, to address the most concerned problems of illegal use of high-toxic pesticide and veterinary medicines, as well as violations of residue standards. The Plan stipulates a complete supervisory process from farmland to market by emphasizing the three key aspects of materials used in farming, production and market excess. By carrying out regular monitoring and inspection, the Plan aims at enhancing people's awareness of food quality and safety, ensuring management responsibility, and improving the levels of management and quality and safety of agricultural products by means of standardization. Today, the system for securing the quality and safety of agricultural products is improving, with steadily strengthened supervisory capacity and notable progress in agricultural standardization, leading to the formation of a work mechanism integrating service, management, supervision, penalty and emergency response, to ensure the quality and safety of agricultural products.
2. Establishing and Strictly Implementing Market Access Systems for Food Quality and Safety
The food quality and safety market access systems established by the Chinese government in 2001 comprise three major ones. One, the production license system, which requires that food-processing enterprises cannot produce and market their products without having the capability to control the source materials' quality, and the adequate conditions to ensure food quality and safety in terms of production equipment, technological flow, product standardization, testing equipment and capability, environment, quality control, storage and transportation, packaging and labeling, and production staff. Enterprises can produce and sell food only after obtaining a food production license. Two, the compulsory inspection system, which means that enterprises have the legal obligation to ensure that their food products pass quality inspection before entering the market. Three, the market access labeling system, i.e., enterprises are required to put on food products the QS label, guaranteeing their quality and safety. Following the principle of phased implementation, by the end of June 2007, some 107,000 food production licenses had been issued to enterprises, which took up over 90 percent of the market of their trades. Meanwhile, supervision has been strengthened over enterprises with food production licenses. By the end of June 2007, 1,276 food production licenses had been withdrawn, cancelled, revoked or nullified for substandard food products. In pace with the growing number of enterprises obtaining the license, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has released lists of such enterprises, making clear that producers without the license and products without the QS label must not enter the market, and warning consumers not to use such products.
3. Intensifying State Supervision by Sample Survey for Food Quality
The Chinese government carries out a food supervision and inspection system mainly by means of sample survey. Since it was set up in 1985, the system has been strengthened and become more focused to enhance its efficiency. In recent years, daily-consumption food items, such as dairy products, meat products, tea, beverages, grain and edible oil, have become the major targets of sample surveys, especially those produced in workshops and enterprises located in concentrated food-producing areas. Special attention has been given to the hygienic indices of microorganisms, additives and heavy metals in food, and to follow-up inspections of small enterprises with unstable product quality. By increasing sample survey frequency and coverage, the goal of rectifying producers of the same type of food by means of sample survey has been by and large met. The state supervisory sample surveys were carried out on 11,104 batches of foodstuffs produced by 7,880 enterprises from 2006 to June 2007. Meanwhile, greater efforts have been made to rectify and punish enterprises turning out substandard products, and to set things straight by means of the following: First, strictly implementing the public announcement system. Three hundred and fifty-five batches of food with serious quality problems produced by 355 enterprises were found in sample surveys and publicly announced. At the same time, publicity is given to good enterprises, quality products and sound brands. Two hundred and forty products winning the title of "Famous Chinese Brand" and 548 freed-from-inspection products have become popular among consumers. Second, strictly carrying out the rectification system. Enterprises with substandard products are urged to rectify themselves strictly, to be examined again in due course. If problems persist, they will be ordered to stop production for an overhaul. If they still cannot pass the inspection after the overhaul, their business licenses will be revoked. Third, strictly implementing the penalty system. Producers who mix impurities or imitations with their products, or pass fake or defective products off as genuine ones will be ordered to stop production, and their products be confiscated. Legal liabilities will be imposed in serious cases by the judicial organs.
4. Intensifying Rectification of Food Workshops
Regional differences and disparities between urban and rural areas in China make the supervision of food workshops a prolonged and arduous task. At present, food workshops with fewer than ten employees are the ones that pose the most difficult problem for ensuring food quality and safety. For workshops engaged in traditional, low-risk food processing, the government sticks to the principle of supervision and standardization while giving guidance to such workshops for consumers' convenience. On the one hand, the government has tried to upgrade them to the market-access requirements by means of shutdown, stoppage of production, merging or changing line of business; on the other, more stringent supervisory measures have been taken to prevent food safety accidents. In recent years, supervision of workshops and small enterprises has been conducted mainly in four aspects: One, transformation of basic work conditions. Workshops cannot start production without meeting the requirements. Two, restrictions on market scope. Food products processed by such small workshops are not allowed to sell outside the administrative areas of townships or towns in which they are located, not allowed to enter shopping centers and supermarkets. Three, restrictions on food packaging. Before obtaining a market access permit, food products from the workshops are not allowed to have marketing package, so that they cannot enter the market disguised as licensed goods. Four, public undertaking. Food workshops must undertake to the public that they do not use any non-food materials, misuse additives, use recycled food, send their products to shopping centers or supermarkets, or market their products beyond the approved region, and guarantee that their food products meet the basic safety and hygienic standards. After such rectifications, the average acceptance rate in sample surveys of food workshops rose to 70.4 percent in 2006. By the end of June 2007, 5,631 workshops had been closed down, 8,814 had been made to suspend production, and 5,385 had reached the requirements after rectification.
5. Promoting the Responsibility System for Regional Food Safety Control
The responsibility system for regional food safety control mainly comprises the following aspects. First, to have specified persons responsible for specified regions and enterprises. The system requires that food safety inspectors of the quality supervision and inspection department go to the townships to supervise the food-processing enterprises; township government coordinators assist the inspectors in supervising food quality and safety; and local repor
ters bring to attention anything illegal regarding food quality and safety. The number of inspectors, coordinators and local reporters must be fixed, their duties defined, and their working areas and inspecting enterprises designated. Second, the system requires "three enters" and "four graphs." The former refers to entering villages, households and enterprises to find out their working conditions and set up files of food producers and processors; the latter refers to drawing up a graph showing dynamic changes in enterprises, a graph showing the distribution of food producers and processors, a graph showing the implementation of supervisory duties, and a graph giving food safety precautions, so as to carry out proactive monitoring and control. Third, the system requires local governments to sign documents of responsibility, enterprises to sign letters of undertaking, and quality supervision and inspection departments to submit regular food safety reports.
By the end of June 2007, a total of 16,030 food-safety supervision regions had been set up, 25,346 full-time food-safety inspectors had been put to work, 72,474 local government coordinators had been appointed, and 106,573 food-safety reporters had been recruited in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. In 2006, the quality supervision and inspection departments at various levels made 900,000 inspections of food producing and processing enterprises.
6. Stepping up Supervision of the Food Circulation Sector
The "Three Green Projects" have been vigorously promoted in China, advocating "green consumption, green markets and green channels." The government encourages modern modes of organization and management for circulation, positively supports the development of chain management and logistics provision; urges marketing enterprises to examine materials before accepting them, check business licenses, require invoices for purchases, keep accounts of transactions and honor their undertakings for food quality, as well as promotes market managers' food quality responsibility system; implements market inspection system in an all-around way; improves the food quality monitoring system, and strictly implements the system that substandard food must be withdrawn from the market and destroyed and made known to the public; strengthens administration over butchering of livestock and fowls, breaks down regional barriers and encourages the nationwide circulation of high-quality foodstuffs with good credit standing and prestigious brand names; improves food processing, circulation and service systems in communities; strengthens the management of the use of genuine food safety labels and standard packaging, and concentrates efforts to crack down on printing of fake packaging, labels and trademarks.
7. Intensifying Supervision of Food Safety in Catering Industry
Hygiene in the catering industry is vital for food safety. In this regard, the Chinese government has primarily done the following: One, it has intensified supervision on hygiene in the catering industry, promulgated and put into effect the Hygienic Standards for the Catering Industry and Group Food Service Providers, adopted a quantified and classified supervisory system for food hygiene management, and strengthened supervision on each link of the catering industry. Two, it has urged the catering industry and canteens to implement the quantified and classified supervisory system for food hygiene management in an all-around way, improved and strengthened monitoring of food contamination and building of a monitoring system on diseases caused by contaminated food. Three, it has intensified crackdown on activities in violation of food safety law, investigated and dealt with serious cases and timely made them known to the public. In 2006, the health departments inspected 2.04 million catering entities of various types and school canteens, dealt with 45,000 cases of illegal food processing and sale and closed down 25,000 food processors and sellers that had been operating without hygiene permits. Four, it has strengthened efforts on hygienic work in schools, directed and carried out special inspections on food and drinking water hygiene, and prevention and treatment of contagious diseases in schools all over the country, as well as prevention of food poisoning and the spread of communicable intestinal diseases. Five, it has conducted food-related jeopardy assessment and issued early warnings for food safety problems on a scientific basis and provided food assessment information.
8. Carrying out Rectification in Respect of Food Quality and Safety in an All-around Way
In order to crack down on the spread of counterfeit and shoddy foodstuffs in certain regions, special comprehensive rectification campaigns were launched in these regions for food quality and safety. The Chinese government has conducted a special project involving hundreds of regions, thousands of townships and tens of thousands of food producers and processors. Targeting key regions, food processing venues and households and their products, the project has resolved the regional problem of producing and selling fake and inferior goods by establishing a food safety monitoring network, stepping up efforts in building up the technological forces such as standardization and monitoring technology, improving technical services for enterprises, promoting the setting up of food industry associations, and intensifying law enforcement and making more stringent efforts to crack down on the production and sale of counterfeit and faulty food. Meanwhile, the departments of industry and commerce as well as quality supervision and inspection keep intensifying law enforcement and, with focus on food quality and safety, direct and conduct special law enforcement actions against activities in producing and processing counterfeit food-related items at the source, strictly crack down on illegal activities such as production of food with non-food materials and misuse of additives in food, as well as food producers with neither a business license nor food-processing permit. In 2006, the quality supervision and inspection departments handled 49,000 illegal operations in this field, confiscating counterfeit and shoddy foodstuffs worth 450 million yuan. In the same year, the departments of industry and commerce sent 5.6 million person/times for law enforcement and inspected 16,000 key food markets and 10.4 million food operating business/times, closed down 151,800 unlicensed businesses, revoked 4,629 business licenses, investigated and dealt with 68,000 cases of production and sale of counterfeit and shoddy food, of which 48 cases were referred to the relevant judicial organs, and ordered 15,500 tons of substandard foodstuffs off the market.
9. Beefing up the Construction of a Risk-warning and Emergency-response System
The Chinese government has established a nationwide quick risk warning and responding system in respect of food safety, actively conducted risk monitoring and control in food production, processing, circulation and consumption, and preliminarily realized the early discovery, early warning, early control and early treatment of food-safety problems through efficient collection and analysis of information on food safety. It has also established a rapid and efficient response mechanism covering the collection and analysis of risk-related information, issuing warnings and rapid responses so that it is possible to provide prompt reports, take swift action, make accurate judgment and mete out appropriate measures.
10. Establishing and Improving a Food Recall System
This system comprises two aspects: active recall and instructed recall. The system stipulates that it is the responsibility of food producing and processing enterprises to recall their products if necessary, requires that food producers should instantly put a halt to the production and selling of their products if they suspect any safety risk in their food products, and take the initiative to recall such food products. Producers who purposely conceal food hazards or do not perform their recall obligations, or whose faulty production has extended such hazards or made them recur, will be instructed to recall their products. In recent years, in conducting food sample surveys and law enforcement, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has become more stringent in demanding food recall when major food-safety hazards, such as pathogenic bacteria, chemical pollutant or non-food materials, are found in food products. Toward those food producing enterprises causing serious consequences, the Administration has revoked their licenses, thus reducing hazards that might be caused by unsafe food and safeguarding the health and safety of consumers.
11. Improving the Food Safety Credit System
The Chinese government pays great attention to the construction of the credit system for food safety, and has set up the preliminary credit records for food-producing enterprises, as well as a system to publicize the honor rolls and blacklists of food producers and processors. Meanwhile, the functions of chambers of commerce and trade associations have been brought into full play to promote self-discipline in the food industry. By giving backing to excellent and competent enterprises, the government supports and helps good and strong enterprises by legislative, administrative and economic means to create an honest environment for food safety, and to enhance people's awareness of honesty in this regard. It has made great efforts in gradual improvement of this mechanism for food safety, and given full scope to its role in regulating, guiding and supervising food safety. It has built up files of credit records of food safety and promoted classified credit monitoring in the food industry. Emphasis is laid on the establishment of a registration and information system and a classified database of credit records of food producers and sellers, which collects information on food producers' and sellers' market access, food-safety control, and consumers' complaints and reports, to ensure an effective control based on adequate information. In recent years, the latest network technology has been used for this purpose, so that consumers may timely, easily, quickly and effectively distinguish counterfeits from genuine ones, which greatly helps safeguard consumers' interests, discourages the production and sale of fake foodstuffs and promotes honesty among enterprises in this industry.
Over the years, the continuous growth of the food industry in terms of variety and quantity as well as the improvement of quality have helped satisfy the people's ever-increasing consumption demands, raised their living standard and promoted national economic development. However, the Chinese government is well aware that there are still problems with food safety, owing to the country's limited socio-economic development. In the days to come, penalties will be focused on those who produce shoddy products or products containing inferior materials or impurities, palm off counterfeits as genuine ones, process foodstuff with non-food or moldy materials, produce foodstuff in disregard of required standards and misuse additives in foodstuff, so as to continuously guarantee food safety and quality.
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.
IV. Law Regime and Technological Guarantee System for Food Safety
1. Food Safety Law Regime Gradually Improved
China now has a complete law regime providing a sound foundation and good environment for guaranteeing food safety, improving food quality and regulating food imports and exports.
The specific laws in this regard include the Product Quality Law, Standardization Law, Metrology Law, Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, Law on the Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products, Criminal Law, Food Hygiene Law, Law on Import and Export Commodity Inspection, Law on Animal and Plant Entry and Exit Quarantine, Frontier Health and Quarantine Law and Law on Animal Disease Prevention.
The specific administrative regulations in this regard include the Special Regulations of the State Council on Strengthening Safety Supervision and Administration of Food and Other Products, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Administration of Production Licenses for Industrial Products, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Certification and Accreditation, Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Import and Export Commodity Inspection, Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Animal and Plant Entry and Exit Quarantine, Administrative Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Veterinary Medicine, Administrative Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Pesticides, Provisions of the People's Republic of China on Place of Origin of Export Goods, Regulations for the Implementation of the Standardization Law of the People's Republic of China, Measures for Investigating, Punishing and Banning Unlicensed Business Operations, Regulations on the Administration of Feedstuffs and Feed Additives, Administrative Regulations on the Safety of Genetically Modified Agricultural Organisms and Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Import and Export of Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora.
The specific departmental rules include the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Measures for the Administration of the Supervision of Quality and Safety of Food of Food Producing and Processing Enterprises (Trial), Measures for the Implementation of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China for the Administration of Production Licenses for Industrial Products, Measures for the Administration of Food Hygiene Licenses, Measures for the Hygiene Administration of Food Additives, Measures for the Administration of Inspection and Quarantine of Entry and Exit Meat Products, Measures for the Administration of Inspection and Quarantine of Entry and Exit of Aquatic Products, Measures for the Administration of Food Safety in the Circulation Sector, Measures for the Administration of the Safety of Places of Origin of Agricultural Products, Measures for the Administration of the Packaging and Marks of Agricultural Products and Regulations for the Administration of Hygiene Registration of Export Food Production Enterprises.
2. Construction of Food Quality and Safety Standard System Gradually Strengthened
The Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China administers the country's food standardization work, while relevant departments under the State Council are in charge of specific food standardization work in respective sectors. The departments concerned are responsible for drafting different national standards for food safety, while the Standardization Administration initiates projects, examines them, marks the serial numbers, gives formal approval and promulgates them. Now, a food quality and safety standard system covering all categories, featuring a relatively rational structure and being fairly complete, has taken initial shape in China. Food safety standards cover the place of origin of agricultural products, quality of irrigation water, rules for the rational use of materials put into agriculture, rules and procedures for animal and plant quarantine, good agricultural practices (GAP), standards of maximum amount of pesticides, veterinary drugs, pollutants and spoilage organisms allowed in food, standards for food additives and their use, hygiene standards for food packaging materials, standards for special dietary food, standards for signs or labels on food packages, standards for the management and control of the safe production of food and standards for testing methods concerning food. These standards apply to edible agricultural products and processed food, such as grain, oil, fruit and vegetable, milk and dairy products, meat, poultry, eggs and related products, aquatic products, soft and alcoholic drinks, condiments and infant food; and cover each sector from food production, processing and distribution to final consumption. So far, China has promulgated over 1,800 national standards concerning food safety, and over 2,900 standards for the food industry, among which 634 national standards are compulsory.
To solve such problems as food safety standards overlapping each other and poorly organized, China has sorted out the over 1,800 national standards, over 2,500 industrial standards, over 7,000 local standards and over 140,000 enterprise standards, repealing more than 530 national and industrial standards. Meanwhile, it has speeded up the revision of over 2,460 national and industrial standards, issued over 200 new national standards, and worked out plans to enact over 280 national standards. It also works hard to promote and enforce these standards, and urges food producing enterprises to strictly abide by them.
3. Food Certification and Accreditation System Basically Established
The Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China is responsible for administering, supervising and coordinating certification and accreditation work throughout the country, putting in order the certification market and regulating ce
rtification activities. A pattern of uniform administration, standardized operation and common implementation for the certification and accreditation of food and agricultural products has come into being, basically establishing a certification and accreditation system covering the entire process "from the farming field to dining table." The certification categories include certification of feeds, GAP certification, certification of hazard-free agricultural products, certification of organic products, certification of food quality, certification of the HACCP management system, and certification of green markets. At present, China ranks among the top ten countries in the world in this regard, with 2.03 million hectares producing certificated organic products. The country has been experimenting with GAP certification geared to international standards in 286 export enterprises and agricultural standardization demonstration bases in 18 pilot provinces; 2,675 food producing enterprises have received HACCP certificates; 28,600 primary agricultural products have passed the certification tests for hazard-free agricultural products; and continuous progress is being made in the certification of feeds, alcoholic beverages by quality grade, and green markets. The government continuously strengthens its supervision of certificated products and enterprises, and increases the authoritativeness and effectiveness of certification.
4. Food Safety Inspection and Testing Framework Taken Initial Shape
Regarding the supervision of foodstuffs for the domestic market, China has established a number of qualified food inspection and testing institutions, bringing into initial being a food safety inspection and testing framework with "state-level inspection institutions playing the leading role, provincial- and ministerial-level food inspection institutions forming the main body, and city- and county-level food inspection institutions acting as supplement." With the improvement of their testing capability and level, these institutions can satisfy the demands for quality and safety tests throughout the entire process -- from the environment of place of origin, input materials, production and processing, storage and circulation to consumption, and can basically meet the requirements of national, industrial and relevant international standards for food safety parameters. China adopts the certification management that is in line with the international practice for food laboratories, and strengthens international mutual recognition, information sharing and joint tackling of key scientific and technological problems, ensuring the accuracy and fairness of test results. China has accredited the qualifications of some food inspection and testing institutions. Altogether, 3,913 food testing laboratories have passed the laboratory accreditation (similar to metrology certification) of China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) among which 48 are state-level quality inspection centers for foodstuffs and 35 are key food laboratories. The testing capability and level of these laboratories have reached a relatively advanced international standard. As regards the supervision of import and export foodstuffs, a technical support system ensuring food safety has taken shape, with the 35 state-level key laboratories playing the leading role. There are 163 inspection and quarantine laboratories for import and export foodstuffs throughout China, possessing more than 10,000 sets of large precision instruments of various types. Altogether, 1,189 professionals are directly engaged in the laboratory testing of import and export foodstuffs in these laboratories, with a rational age structure and allocation of staff according to their specialized fields. These laboratories can detect all kinds of food-borne pathogens and 786 safety or hygienic items, such as residue of pesticides and veterinary medicines, additives and heavy metals. By 2006, China had set up 323 state- and ministerial-level quality inspection centers and 1,780 provincial-, prefecture- and county-level testing institutions concerned with agricultural products. Thus, a quality and safety inspection and testing framework for agricultural products, with these institutions at different levels supplementing each other, has taken shape, providing technical support for strengthening the supervision of the quality and safety of agricultural products.
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.
(China.org.cn August 17, 2007)