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China food safety event targets global collaboration

By Lorraine Heller , 13-Nov-2007

Food safety will be the focus of a forum set to take place in China later this month, which will aim to coordinate global safety efforts and improve international trade.

The Forum, which is organized by the Chinese government together with the World Health Organization (WHO), will bring together governmental and industry representatives from over 40 countries.

 

 

 

The High-Level International Food Safety Forum comes at a time of heightened focus on the safety of the global food supply, following a number of high-profile contamination cases over the past year.

 

 

 

Although many of these cases have originated in the US, the safety of imported products from China has also been in the spotlight, following a series of health scares and contamination problems with exported food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics goods from the country.

 

 

 

According to WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan "the World Health Organization, together with FAO and member states recognize food safety as a world-wide challenge".

 

 

''Food safety and security affect every person on this planet. Food supply is increasingly globalized. This calls for international collaboration, also to ensure consumer confidence. This Forum can lead the way forward on all these issues.''

 

 

The event is set to take place in Beijing on November 26 and 27.

 

 

 

Topics of discussion will include how to strengthen international exchange and cooperation and coordinate actions to improve food safety.

 

 

 

Education efforts will also be discussed, with experts and industry representatives expected to share experience and information on food safety efforts and contamination cases.

 

 

 

In addition, a round table meeting will be held in order to examine the roles of industry and consumers in ensuring the safety of foods consumed.

 

 

 

The ultimate goal is to strengthen international cooperation on the issue as markets become increasingly globalized, according to the event's Chinese co-sponsors, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

 

 

 

China responds to safety scares

 

 

Concerns with the safety of food products and ingredients coming out of China have resulted in many manufacturers and retailers looking elsewhere for their supplies in order to ensure their products' safety and allay consumer fears.

 

 

 

In the face of the potentially massive blow to its international trade, Chinese authorities took a number of swift, sharp actions.

 

 

 

These included the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the national State Food and Drug Administration, for accepting bribes to approve substandard medicines.

 

 

 

In addition, Zheng Shangjin, the former head of the food and drug bureau in Zhejiang province was sentenced to four years in prison for taking bribes and abuse of power.

 

 

 

In July, AQSIQ - the Chinese food regulator - announced that half of small processors would close amid fears that smaller unregulated operations accounted for many of the food safety problems.

 

 

 

Furthermore, in the same month Chinese officials announced a raft of changes had been made to 1,817 national standards for edible agricultural products and processed foods, while 208 were abolished. The food industry has set a further 2,588 standards, 6,949 were established by local governments, while amendments were made to about 140,000 enterprise standards.

 

 

 

In August this year, China defended its food safety standards in a notice sent to WHO, announcing that China was willing to cooperate globally to meet the challenges. Actions and laws China so far adopted to tackle food safety were detailed in the notice, as well as an explanation of the roles watchdogs play in overseeing the industry.

 

 

 

And as of September 1, new regulations require that samples from every food shipment to the US and other countries are tested for safety.

 

 

 

The US also last week announced wide sweeping plans to enhance the safety of the increasing volume of imports entering the United States.

 

 

The nation's Import Safety Action Plan requires the creation of a stronger certification process in exporting countries, a greater US presence overseas, and stronger penalties for those responsible for selling unsafe products.

 

 

 

To learn more about the Chinese food safety forum, click here .

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