China Launches Food Recall System
China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) has established a new recall system for food products produced or sold in the country. The regulation requires manufacturers to take the primary responsibility for recalling any problematic food items and to remove the products from the market within one week or less, depending on the severity of the associated health effects. If a producer fails to take the required action, AQSIQ will force a recall and issue a consumer alert, according to the regulation.
Food safety remains one of the biggest concerns among Chinese consumers following a series of domestic food scares in recent years—from ”˜poisonous’ rice that had been stored too long to be considered safe, to duck eggs containing the toxic dye Sudan Red. Meanwhile, international food safety crises trigged by Chinese food exports, such as the melamine-tainted pet food that killed thousands of animals in the United States this spring, have raised global concern about the quality and safety of Chinese-made products. The food recall system is the latest government measure to tackle the issue, following an earlier regulation passed by the State Council (China’s cabinet) to strengthen food safety control.
The existence of some 350,000 small and unregulated food companies across China, most with less than 10 employees, presents a major obstacle for implementation of the new system, an official from AQSIQ told Outlook Weekly, an official magazine of Xinhua News Agency. A recent AQSIQ inspection of roughly 450,000 domestic food manufacturers found that nearly 29 percent of the companies did not put descriptive labels on their products and that nearly 60 percent failed to perform a final check on the items, often because they lacked the capacity to do this.
In August, the Information Office of the State Council issued a white paper on China’s food quality and safety, noting that the share of Chinese food exports that meets the quality inspection standard has remained above 99 percent for many years. The approval rate for food exported to the United States in the first half of 2007 was 99.1 percent, while the approval rate for Europe reached 99.8 percent. Domestically, roughly 85.1 percent of Chinese food products passed quality inspection in the first half of the year, up from 77.9 percent in the same period in 2006.