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China’s food-safety watchdog chief: ‘We could do better’

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China’s food regulator has acknowledged that it still faces severe challenges in maintaining food safety, even though it has seen improvements in recent years.

Announcing that inspectors will maintain a zero tolerance towards food violations, Bi Jingquan, chief of the China Food and Drug Administration, said his department could do better.

"A number of problems still exist in food safety, and supervision still falls short of public expectations," he said. 

"We will punish irregularities with the most severe measures this year to prevent and control food and drug risks.”

The number of inspections last year crew by about half over the previous year to 257,000 domestic food samples—of which 96.8% were found to meet the required standards. This suggests no improvement over 2015, though it does represent a gain of 2.1 percentage points since 2014.

Violators were punished in 181,000 cases last year, according to official statistics. This showed that China had developed an “effective deterrent” to violators, Bi added.

Despite the improvements, food inspectors have been seeing excessive use of pesticides and antibiotics for husbandry and poultry, excessive levels of heavy metals in food from pollution, and illegal additives, he said.

To combat this, Bi admitted that his department faced an uphill task. "Supervision is weak at the grassroots. Professionals, technicians and facilities are lacking," he said.

"While acknowledging the gaps, we must keep a zero-tolerance attitude toward violations of food safety laws to ensure food safety at every link, from the farmland to dishes on the table.”

 

More stories from China…

Aldi’s Australian suppliers to provide stock for chain’s China move

Aldi will begin to make online sales in China later this month, using stock from its Australian suppliers for its own-brand lines.

The German discount supermarket chain hopes its selection of wine, snack and breakfast products will appeal to Chinese consumers interested in German brands, it said in a statement.

The initial "soft launch" will take place on March 20 on online platform Tmall Global to a limited audience. This will be followed by a full launch event in Shanghai on April 25, Aldi said.

Alibaba Europe manager Terry von Bibra said the Chinese middle-class was becoming more and more interested in "Made in Germany" products.

German discount chains have been increasingly expanding abroad, with rival Lidl saying last month it would open its first stores in America in the summer.

Aldi’s move into China is through Aldi South, which also owns Aldi US and the chain’s British stores. It entered the Australian market more than 15 years ago.

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