Alibaba policing food safety: Goods sold on Tmall and Taobao will need to comply newly with new additive standards

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Alibaba has launched a set of standards to prevent retailers from selling foods containing illegal pharmaceutical ingredients on the e-commerce platforms. ©Getty Images
Alibaba has launched a set of standards to prevent retailers from selling foods containing illegal pharmaceutical ingredients on the e-commerce platforms. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Food safety, Alibaba, tmall, Taobao

Alibaba has launched a set of standards to prevent retailers from selling foods containing illegal pharmaceutical ingredients.

The standards, known as the “Technical Standards for Prohibited Additives in Edible Foods”, were developed with the Centre Testing International (CTI), a Chinese testing and certification organisation. 

The standards specify the general technical requirements, safety regulations, testing methods, and evaluation criteria for banned pharmaceutical ingredients, such as sibutramine and ephedrine.

In doing so, Alibaba hopes to set clear compliance requirements for the retailers, and at the same time, assure consumers of any food safety problems.

“We hope for retailers on the platform to have a clear understanding of compliance requirements and make transactions easy.

“It also frees the consumers from worrying about the issue of any illegal addition of unwarranted substances in edible products, allowing them to consume with a peace of mind, which in turn improves the online business environment,”​ a spokesman from Alibaba Health said in response to queries from FoodNavigator-Asia.

According to the CTI, the national inspection standards only cover certain types of foods, such as health foods. However, most of the other categories, such as general food, agricultural products, TCM, and other unclassified foods are not regulated by such standards.

Hence, this set of standards will be applicable to common foods, edible agricultural produce, traditional Chinese medicine ingredients, traditional Chinese medicine, and unclassified edible products.

Specifications of the standards have been put in place since April 21 and is applicable to all products on Alibaba’s online marketplaces, including Taobao and Tmall.

“As the first standard introduced by an e-commerce company on edible products, the new initiative will better equip us to monitor quality standards of ‘edible products’ on our platform and ultimately help us to protect consumers’ food safety as well as enhance merchants’ operations,”​ the spokesman said.

On the other hand, Tmall will also order retailers who have violated the standards to remove their products from the platform. Violators will also be penalised.

The spokesman added that the firm would continue to monitor the standards’ effectiveness in providing an online business environment that will give assurance to our consumers to purchase health related products.

Previous efforts

Alibaba has been working on strengthening its food safety initiatives in recent months.

Together with Buhler and ID capital, Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, Alibaba Cloud, organised a competition in search of new food safety solutions​ last month.

Last April, it also introduced a food tracing system based on blockchain with four other Australian and New Zealand companies – namely Fonterra, New Zealand Post, Blackmores, and Australia Post, in a bid to enhance consumer confidence.

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