The melamine scandal in 2008 involved the adulteration of milk products with the toxic chemical melamine. The infamous food safety incident has sparked unwanted global interest in the Chinese dairy industry and damaged the reputation of China’s food exports with a number of countries stopping imports of all Chinese dairy products. The incident instigated a domino effect causing Chinese consumers to turn to foreign imports seemingly irrevocably damaging the internal and external market for Chinese dairy products. However, news that dairy products from overseas were also found to contain harmful substances, like trace content of dicyandiamide in New Zealand milk products has somewhat bolstered consumer confidence in Chinese produce. To further strengthen the trust of Chinese consumers and the international market, earlier this year, China AQSIQ issued the Administrative Measures for Inspection, Quarantine and Supervision of Import and Export Dairy Products, which will come into effect as of 1 May 2013. Duties involving controlling the importation of foreign manufacturers and exporters are specified.
The AQSIQ will evaluate the food safety management system and overall food safety conditions of countries and regions of origin. Products that are deemed acceptable by the AQSIQ under the new regulation will be allowed access to the Chinese market.
Competent Authority in the Country of Origin
For the country of origin that exports dairy products to China for the first time, the competent authority in that country needs to provide the information of the veterinary health and public health, including related laws and regulations, organization structure, veterinary service system, safety and health control system, residual monitoring system and animal epidemic inspection and monitoring conditions.
Overseas Manufacturers and Exporters
Foreign manufacturers need to register according to AQSIQ’s rules and also be familiar with China’s food safety standards regarding tests that meet the Chinese standardized testing criteria and also standards regarding the production of relevant reports. Exporters or agents should also submit the required information for record to the AQSIQ. All the registered overseas producers and exporters on record will be released to the public.
Importers of Dairy Products
The new Measures also raises the requirements and standards expected of importers of dairy products. New requirements involve strict adherence to stringent documentation standards. Importers are now required to make a record of the import and sale information of imported dairy products, such as name, qualification number, production date, shelf life and the names of exporters and the downstream buyers. All files should be kept for at least two years. Moreover, the local entry-exit inspection agencies will make a record of the importers’ reputation to inhibit corrupt practices.
With food safety scandals emerging frequently, the safety of dairy products becomes a ubiquitous concern as is the reputation of both indigenous and foreign markets. Apart from the requirements for import dairy products, the new Measures also specifies the obligations of exporter of domestic milk products and their legal liabilities, aiming to enhance the quality of imported products and overcome the crisis of confidence of Chinese consumers toward domestic dairy brands.