China has slapped a temporary ban on the import of British cheese after health officials from the country identified several hygiene issues at a single UK dairy.
Chinese auditors implemented the ban after identifying "issues related to maintenance, air sanitation, raw milk transport temperatures and chemical storage" at the plant, according to dairy farmer representative, DairyCo.
“The ban will remain in place until all UK cheese plants exporting to China are audited by the Local Authorities,” the DairyCo notice added.
Inspections were carried out by Chinese officials at dairies across the UK last month in advance of the introduction of new food safety laws.
Under these regulations, only dairy products manufactured at facilities approved by the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) are permitted to enter the country after May 1 2014.
Any cheese produced before the regulations came into force will, however, be allowed entry into China.
The Chinese decision to block British cheese exports has come under fire after reports emerged that the plant in question does not export to China.
DairyReporter.com approached several industry organizations regarding the reports, but no reply was forthcoming prior to publication.
The Irish government has mean while welcomed the result of its audit, which found all those processors hoping to export to China - more than 30 - to be compliant with the new regulations.
“…it is an excellent result that Ireland has achieved 100% compliance with the Chinese requirements, and every company that applied for access has been accepted," said Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Irish dairy exports to China in 2013 topped around €170m (US$235m), according to the Irish Ministry for Agriculture, Food and the Marine - an increased on the €50m (US$69m) recorded in 2011.
Coveney added that the result of its audit, twinned with the approaching European Union (EU) milk quota abolition, should enable the Irish dairy sector to "fully realise its potential" in emerging markets such as China.
“This approval will allow the Irish dairy sector to build on their already formidable reputation in international markets, and in the increasingly important Chinese market, and to further capitalise on Ireland’s reputation for green, efficient, high quality dairy production," he said.
"The abolition of dairy quotas this time next year will be an historic moment for the Irish agriculture and will mean that the Irish dairy sector can start to fully realise its potential in key markets such as China.”