Officials from the US and China have signed an agreement that will see the nations collaborate on issues including food safety over the next five years.
The China-US Plan of Strategic Cooperation in Agriculture 2012-2017, which was signed by Chinese Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu, will focus on cooperation between the countries in the areas of food safety, food security and sustainable agriculture.
The agreement came as part of an effort to enhance trade between the countries.
The pact comes just weeks after FoodQualityNews.com reported that more than half of all food processing and food packaging firms on the Chinese mainland failed inspections – 10% of which for ‘major’ defects including faecal contamination.
Food safety collaboration
The plan will see China and the US "continue to promote exchange and cooperation in inspectionand regulatory systems on safety of agricultural products within the regulatory
mandates of the Participants."
The countries will work together to ensure the implementation of "science-based" regulations, policies and standards and ensure the transparency of the regulatory decision-making process and food safety initiatives.
"Cooperative efforts should be made to facilitate the development of public-private monitoring and reporting systems for animal disease, aquatic disease, plant disease, plant pests, and food contamination," the agreement added.
In 2011, China became the top market for US agricultural goods, purchasing $20bn in US agricultural exports.
According to the USDA, the value of farm exports to China supported more than 160,000 American jobs in 2011.
“We are the world’s two largest agricultural producers and strong collaborators in agricultural research and education. Our great trade relationship benefits the citizens of both of our nations,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“We will also have opportunities to collaborate and partner on food safety: ensuring the health of our citizens through the implementation of best practices, advanced by laws and regulations based on science,” the US Deparment of Agriculture chief added.
‘Strengthen’ China safety
The pact comes less than a week after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested a budget increase of $253m for 2013, including $10m the strengthen the safety of Chinese produced food.
Using the $10m budget, the FDA intends to enhance collaboration with Chinese food safety counterparts and increase its presence in the country.
The request was part of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget, which also saw the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) take a proposed cut in funding.