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China unveils latest five year food safety plan

By Mark Astley , 19-Jun-2012

China has published its latest five-year food safety plan in an effort to “clean up” old, often-overlapping national and industry standards.

Under the strategy, 269 new national food safety standards will be enacted - prioritising issues including dairy safety standards, the use of food additives, mycotoxin limits and the improvement of food packaging materials.

The country already has more than 2,000 national standards and more than 2,900 industry standards. This is in additional to more than 1,200 regional food safety standards.

A “clean-up” of current national and industry standards and the full integration of newly-introduced standards is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

The plan, which is the twelfth of its kind, came within days of the country’s latest food safety scandal, which has seen Chinese dairy giant Yili recall mercury-tainted infant formula from stores across the country.

Missing relevant standards

“China is still missing the relevant standards of the food product safety standards,” said the plan, which was translated from Chinese.

In order to remedy this, the Chinese government has vowed to set standards for detecting various contaminants, food additives, microorganisms and pesticides in food production by 2015.

“National food safety standards are mandatory and important to protect public health, protect food safety, achieve food security, strengthen regulations, while also regulating food production and operation and promote the healthy development of the food industry,” said the plan.

The document also outlined plans to boost funding in an effort to combat food safety issues and revamp or abolish the old, often overlapping standards.

For years, more than a dozen government agencies have had the ability to enact their own standards. As a result, many current food safety regulations in the country overlap and in some cases contradict each other.

The 14 government departments, which include the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, will coordinate to revamp existing standards by 2015.

“Remarkable results”

The safety of food manufactured in China has become a global concern in recent years.

Earlier this month, Chinese dairy giant Yili was forced to initiate a recall after traces of mercury were found in two of its infant formula products and two whey powder products.

Despite being continually dogged by scandals, the latest five-year plan claims that food safety in the country has seen “remarkable” improvements.

“Various departments and localities have attached great importance to the formulation and revision of food safety standard. In recent years, China’s food safety standards have achieved remarkable results,” said the plan.

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