Food safety focus at China’s annual parliament an opportunity for Ireland

National People’s Congress seeks to assuage widespread concern about food safety

With Irish milk exports to China worth €400 million, familiarity with China’s food safety rules has become a key requirement for food companies seeking to export there.

With Irish milk exports to China worth €400 million, familiarity with China’s food safety rules has become a key requirement for food companies seeking to export there.

 

With Irish milk exports to China worth €400 million, and with a ban on Irish beef exports to the country lifted, familiarity with China’s food safety rules has become a key requirement for food companies seeking to export there.

Last year Ireland was one of a few countries whose dairy facilities were found to meet fully the standards of China’s new food safety laws, a coup given that other competing nations did not, including Britain.

China’s annual parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), last week discussed a raft of revised consumer protection and food-safety rules called the Second Draft Food Safety La. This will contain stricter rules on food production to help boost health and safety, a big issue in a country where food safety scandals have caused serious political repercussions over recent years.

There are regular scandals about safety in the food industry in China, ranging from the use of the industrial chemical melamine in infant formula, which killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000 in 2008, to the use of toxic “gutter” or reused cooking oil.

The crackdown on corruption has coincided with a massive campaign on food safety.

The government has stepped up factory inspections, engaged in mass laboratory tests, enforced existing legislation and even executed those who commit serious breaches. And yet there are still cases getting through which make big headlines.

The food market is also changing as more people shop online for groceries.

Food safety was a key issue at the NPC, and delivering his work report on the government, premier Li Keqiang isolated food safety as a “serious problem of public concern”.

“Serious efforts were made to prevent food contamination, and on the whole the situation was kept stable in food and medicine safety,” he told delegates in the Great Hall of the People.

“We will work to improve the quality of all agricultural products and make our food more safe to eat.

“Life is priceless; we must take stronger measures to ensure workplace safety in all fields, and ensure food and medicine safety throughout the production process.”

A senior cadre responsible for legal affairs, Yuan Jie, revealed some of the details of the second draft of the revised food safety law.

“To ensure food safety for the people the food safety law will have even stricter stipulations, with clear citations and requirement on what food safety standards the food production and business operation should go by, with relevant legal liabilities, and on food that is prohibited to produce and sell, also with relevant legal liabilities defined.”

A key point of the draft law will be to strengthen regulations on every link in food production and operation, and will strengthen regulations on the storage, transport and loading of food.

They will also increase supervision outside of the government, and encourage insiders to report violations of food safety and prevent any retaliation against informers.

The draft also proposes introducing labelling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The draft food-safety law will also increase the penalties for not obeying the rules.

Other measures outlined include new rules to impose harsher punishments for those committing crimes of embezzlement and bribery, which forms part of the broader crackdown on corruption in China.

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