Li Changjiang, Minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), held a press conference on July 20 at the Information Office of the State Council to brief the media about China's product quality and food safety. He also answered questions from journalists.
Mechanisms to ensure product quality and food safety
Li said the Chinese Government attaches great importance to product quality and food safety. The Central Government and local governments have formulated a complete set of laws and regulations regarding product quality and food safety and have created various mechanisms to improve them, he said.
The first is the market access mechanism. It requires producers of products that may have an impact on safety, health and the environment to obtain production licenses and mandatory certifications.
The second is the national product quality supervision and sample inspection mechanism. China conducts national sample inspections on important and sensitive products every year and makes the results publicly known via the media.
The third is the in-house quality inspection mechanism, which ensures that products delivered to the market are safe.
The fourth is the recall mechanism, under which defective and substandard products are withdrawn from the market.
China is intensifying its efforts to develop an electronic supervision network over product quality, Li said. The network closely monitors the quality of different products, thereby enabling consumers to make inquiries, lodge complaints and ask for compensation whenever they discover fake and inferior products, he said.
Food quality generally good
A recent national food sample inspection indicated that 85.1 percent of the tested food met Chinese standards, Li noted. The rate of staple food, such as rice, flour and edible oil, was 91.5 percent, and that of some fruit juice was as high as 97.5 percent. Food for export is of even higher quality. For example, 99.1 percent of food exported to the United States and 99.8 percent of the food exported to the European Union (EU) and Japan met Chinese standards in the first half of this year, Li added.
Despite this, food safety problems still exist, Li said. In particular, some small food factories turn out unstable quality products under poor production conditions, Li explained, adding that some of their products cannot meet standards. Given this problem, the AQSIQ is conducting stricter inspections of products produced by small food factories, which make up some 10 percent of the market. Small factories that have long failed to meet the requirements and even go as far as producing and selling fake goods will be shut down, Li stressed.
White Rabbit candy free of formaldehyde contamination
Li addressed the foreign media's concerns over the formaldehyde contamination of China's White Rabbit creamy candy. The Philippines announced that White Rabbit creamy candy exported to the country by Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan (Group) Co. Ltd. contained formaldehyde, a poisonous chemical, he said. However, he pointed out that China had not received any information about the matter from the government of the Philippines. The AQSIQ contacted the embassy of the Philippines in China about the matter but was told that the embassy was unable to provide it, he said. The minister also said that meticulous tests showed that no formaldehyde was added during the production process.
False report on steamed buns
Addressing a recent report about steamed buns stuffed with chopped cardboard being sold in Beijing, Li said the police had investigated and confirmed that it was a false report fabricated by an individual reporter. Beijing Television Station and the All-China Journalists Association condemned the false report, he said, adding that the former, which first broadcast the news, made a public apology.
International cooperation on food safety
Because product quality and food safety are common tasks and shared responsibilities of the international community, China expects different countries to work together to ensure safety mechanisms are in place and working, Li said. China has initiated bilateral or multilateral cooperative mechanisms on food safety with many countries and regions, he noted. The AQSIQ has established a cooperative mechanism on the safety of industrial goods with the EU. It has similar working mechanisms with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
According to the minister, China also has established good cooperative mechanisms with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration. The two sides recently held phone conversations twice. The chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services visited China at the end of July to attend discussions on food safety with Chinese officials. In August, the Chinese and U.S. departments concerned planned to hold a vice ministerial work conference to exchange views on shaping a cooperative food safety mechanism between the two countries and to draft a memorandum for cooperation on food safety, he said. The two countries would sign the memorandum at a proper time, he added.
U.S. import safety panel not aimed at China
In response to a question on the United States' creation of the Import Safety Working Group, Li said U.S. President George W. Bush announced the group's establishment on July 18 and stressed that the effort was not aimed at China. Instead, it aims to strengthen the supervision of imported products, as the United States imports from over 150 countries and regions, he said.
Imported food safe for consumption
In response to a question on the safety of the food that China imports from other countries, Li explained that 98.9 percent of food imported from Japan and 98.8 percent of the food imported from the EU met standards in the first half of this year. The rate for food imports from the United States was 99.3 percent in the same period, compared to 99.09 percent last year.