China standards unveiled, but safety woes continue

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, China

As China unveils a raft of changes to food safety standards, its
inspectors are investigating the excess additives and preservatives
found in children's snacks made in the country.

Changes have been made to 1,817 national standards for edible agricultural products and processed foods, while 208 have been abolished. The food industry has set a further 2,588 standards, 6,949 have been established by local governments. Amendments have been made to 140,000 enterprise standards, Liu pingjun, head of Standardisation Administration of China (SAC), according to media reports. The revised standards should serve to improve the safety and reputation of food processed in China, but will also impose extra requirements manufacturers wanting to do business in the country. Chinese officials are reacting to the backlash of international criticism over the safety of its food. Liu said that by the end of 2006 China had 1,965 national food standards in operation, 634 of which were mandatory. He also said that current standards were on average 12 years old, although the aim is to reduce the age to four and half years by 2010. However, despite the efforts, recent statistics suggest bringing food safety under control in China has a long way to go. According to government survey results released yesterday, 19.1 per cent of products for domestic consumption were found to substandard in testing during the first half of 2007. Canned and preserved fruit and dried fish were found to be the most problematic, mainly because of excessive bacteria and additives, the administration said. Furthermore, inspectors operating in the Guangxi region found excessive additives and preservatives in nearly 40 per cent of 100 children's snacks during recent testing, according to a report on an official government website. Samples taken from 70 establishments in seven cities during the second quarter of 2007 included soft drinks, candied fruits, gelatin desserts and crackers. Tests found that 35 per cent of gelatin desserts sampled met food standards, while two types of sweetened fruit contained 63 times the permitted amount of artificial sweetener, according to the report. The first recall system that will force manufacturers to trace and collect food that pose health risks to consumers is also expected to be in place by the end of this year. China's government began taking food safety in earnest earlier this year. In the six months since it has closed 180 manufacturing plants. Earlier this year, the regulator issued a warning to companies not to import products into China that do not have the required export approval. Regulatory changes are seen as necessary following a series of food safety scares involving Chinese food in recent months. Most notably was the discovery melamine, a banned chemical, pet food and feed, which poisoned animals across the US. The new rules will apply to foreign as well as domestic companies, with blacklisting a punishment for violations. Meanwhile, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, was sentenced death earlier this year, after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

Related topics: Food safety

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