Abstract

Both global and domestic markets place increasing importance on the quality and safety of food products produced in China. The presence of microbial agents, toxic animal or plant products, and chemical contamination are major food safety problems. Suppliers to export markets face relatively high refusal rates for Chinese food products. We provide an overview of food safety problems in China and the changes and efforts made by the government and private sector to meet the needs for improved food safety. Evidence from the vegetables and vegetable processing sector illustrate the challenges in developing a coordinated quality and food safety system and the advantages that larger scale firms and integrated supply chains hold in competing in high quality markets. Both the lack of testing and inability to control hazards as they enter the food distribution system lead to systemic failures in the food production system. Current efforts are directed to developing supply networks to assure safe production practices among suppliers, and investing in greater control of products and traceability in the supply system. Challenges center on problems of (1) coordination and enforcement of food safety regulations, (2) implementing traceability in the agricultural and food product system, (3) lack of public confidence in the safety of the food supply, and (4) the high cost of implementing food safety controls. Improving technical standards at each stage throughout the supply chain and integrating the entire process requires attention to demonstration, training and consultative services, as well as investment in infrastructure, testing, and systems of tracking ingredients and product. Establishing and comprehensively enforcing a unified legal and regulatory food safety system in China would provide the foundation to maintaining quality and food safety in both domestic and export markets.

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