2003, just-food.com/Access Asia: In the hopes
of quelling fears of food poisoning both home and abroad,
the Beijing Ministry of Commerce (MOC) Market Circulation
and Adjustment Department has announced that it will
establish a digital monitoring system for agricultural
food products to ensure food sanitation and safety.
The government is optimistic that increased monitoring
and stricter regulations will cut the number of food
poisoning cases in China, which continue to cause alarm.
They also believe this to be a necessary step in meeting
trade barriers set by other countries. Major problems
remain with high levels of insecticide residue on fruit
and vegetables and fake products. The new system will
also increase food safety at slaughterhouses, wholesale
and retail markets. Along with the new system will go
a blacklist of unsafe enterprises that will reportedly
be published on the Internet.
China has over 200 laws, regulations or standards on
food safety at national or regional levels, including
two sets of new criteria on the wholesale and retail
market of agricultural and related products. In the
next five years a further 500 criteria on food processing
and circulation will be introduced while the government
is looking to phase out the traditional agricultural
markets in cities and develop supermarket retailing.
This may be some comfort to foreign buyers of Chinese
food who like the price but not always the sanitary
conditions. China sold US$13.6bn worth of food and live
animals worldwide in the first ten months of 2003, mostly
fishery products, vegetables, fruit, meat and meat products,
according to Chinese Customs.
As far as domestic poisoning goes, the press continues
to be full of cases. The most recent involved 78 primary
school children who were poisoned after drinking soy
milk and eating cake in the southern Chinese town of
Beihai. This was the fourth case of food poisoning at
a Chinese school in the last two months – in the
last two cases, 85 children were poisoned and one died.
Cases of food poisoning have become increasingly frequent
in China due to poor food hygiene and a string of deliberate
contamination cases involving rat poison and pesticides.