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China gains access to EU rapid alert system

By staff reporter , 18-Nov-2008

Consumer safety heads of the EU, US and China signed a revised memorandum of understanding on product and food safety yesterday at a high-level summit that reinforced the political importance of safety.

The summit, held in Brussels, was intended to send a strong message of political commitment to safety and keeping global supply chains secure. It was attended by Meglena Kuneva, the EU Consumer Commissioner, Nancy Nord, US chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and Wei Chuanzhong, China’s vice minister of AQSIQ.

A previous memorandum of understanding was signed in 2006; however safety has been a recurring topic, notably recently in the contamination of milk with the industrial chemical melamine.

Although the gravest impact of the melamine contamination was felt in China, globalization of the food supply chain has meant that products containing milk-derived ingredients have been withdrawn all over the world.

There has also been concern over other protein sources, such as eggs, as it has emerged that melamine may have also been used in animal feed, to give the appearance of a higher protein content.

The renewed memorandum gives China access to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (Raffs), the mechanism in place since 1979 by which it exchanges information with control authorities on food safety measures.

“Trust is the currency of a global economy,” said Kuneva.

“There is no room for complacency, and every week there are alerts which remind us that we must never allow safety issues to slip from the very top of the political agenda.

“…We are strongly in favour of open and competitive markets, with all the benefits of in terms of price and choice they bring for millions of consumers, but never at the expense of safety.”

The three participants in the meeting then discussed trilateral areas for action, including product traceability, expertise exchange and joint enforcement actions. The priorities identified have not yet been publicised in a planned joint statement.

Finally, they discussed focused in on improving information exchange on alerts and recalls. In particular, they sought to use new US safety legislation that allows for more open information exchanged.

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