December 19, 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.