The food quality watchdog is set to further strengthen the regulation of imported foods, which are growing more popular following a series of food safety scandals in China.
Lin Wei, director of the Imported Food Safety Bureau of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, revealed the initiative on June 15 at the opening ceremony of the 2015 National Food Safety Awareness Week.
“The administration will further improve safety regulation of imported food by setting up risk management and assessment systems and improving a whole-process surveillance mechanism,” he said.
These improvements will also be represented in the recently revised Food Safety Law of China, he added, but he did not give further details.
A survey by the China Food and Drug Administration in March found that nearly 75 percent of respondents didn’t have any or enough confidence in domestic food safety.
Of all the food safety crises last year, an international one involving Shanghai Husi Food, owned by the Chinese arm of US food giant OSI Group, attracted the most public attention.
The company was found supplying expired meat to fast-food outlets including McDonald’s and Yum Brands in many parts of the country.
“The food supply chain is becoming more globalized, so we face common, more-complicated challenges to ensure food safety,” said Sun Baoguo, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Beijing Technology and Business University.
“China definitely needs to further improve its food safety, but the concern and risk also touches imported food items,” he said.
He urged China’s food safety authorities to bolster regulation of imported food along with their long-term efforts to ensure domestic food safety.
Currently, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine conducts quality inspections of imported food.
In the first five months of the year, the administration screened out 927 shipments of substandard or problem imported food items, worth $12.7 million, according to Lin.
They were from 79 countries and regions and included drinks, baked goods, candy, dairy products, liquors and dried nuts, he said.
Major problems include food additive usage and microorganism contamination, and he emphasized that problem food is returned or destroyed.
Previously, the CFDA disclosed plans to dispatch food and drug inspectors to the United States. However, that has not been implemented due to problems such as staff shortages.
The US Food and Drug Administration, in a similar vein, unveiled plans last year to boost the size of its office in China to conduct more inspections of food exports to the US.