Stricter dairy import regulations drafted

By Wang Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-31 14:55
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Beijing - Domestic buyers will be responsible for recalling unsafe dairy products imported from overseas and for making the recall information public, a draft regulation has proposed.

The regulation, proposed by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), will remain on the administration's website for public input until Jan 8.

"In cases where domestic buyers fail to recall problematic dairy products, related quality supervision departments should recall the products and report to the AQSIQ. The AQSIQ retains the right to issue risk warnings," the draft said.

It also noted that if the exporting country encounters dairy product safety crises, the AQSIQ may restrict or suspend dairy trade with the country.

For countries and regions exporting raw milk and similar products to China for the first time, the AQSIQ required information about the country's or region's public health laws and regulations, veterinary services, safety and sanitation controls, and residue and animal disease monitoring.

For those exporting other dairy products to China for the first time, information on raw material sources, production and processing techniques, and the use of ingredients and additives are required.

Comprehensive records of any imported or exported dairy products are required. Domestic buyers or producers should keep the records for at least two years.

"The regulation doesn't apply to cross-border dairy products transported via express packages or mail, or those carried by passengers," the draft said.

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Ministry of Agriculture dairy analyst Chen Yu said he supports "actions to improve the regulation of the cross-border dairy trade".

"The message here is the AQSIQ is doing something to ensure food safety and that foreign dairy products are not 100 percent reliable," Chen said.

He said the regulation is not likely to significantly affect the domestic dairy industry or consumers, because the "majority of the imported dairy products in the country are industrial raw materials used for making such products as chocolates or reconstructed milk."

The melamine-tainted milk scandal in 2008 - in which at least six infants died and almost 300,000 were made ill in the country - coupled with the resurgence of the deadly chemical in domestic dairy products in 2010, led to surges in foreign dairy product purchases.

The General Administration of Customs website stated milk powder imports exceeded 260,000 tons during the first seven months of 2010, a 75-percent year-on-year increase.

The amount of unsafe dairy imports increased with the overall import increase in the first half of 2010.

An AQSIQ report on substandard imported food and cosmetics said 402 tons of unsafe imported dairy products were shipped back or destroyed in June.

The amount far outstripped the 22 tons in April and 27 tons in May. It is also 10 times more than the 40 tons of unsafe dairy products seized in June 2009.

About 670 tons of imported milk products were found to be substandard from March to August 2010.