EU chamber urges China to lift cheese ban

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China should reconsider its decision to suspend imports of some types of cheese, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said Monday. “European cheese has been imported into China for decades without any safety issues resulting,” the chamber said in a statement. Chinese customs officials have moved in recent weeks to ban various mould-ripened cheeses including Camembert, Brie and Roquefort. These types contain cultures that are traditionally used in cheese production in Europe. The chamber said efforts had already been underway to revise the National Food Safety Standard regarding cheese. “(We) have been working closely with the relevant Chinese authorities on the revision of these standards for more than two years,” it said.

It is unclear why the ban was put into place before new standards were announced. “While it adjusts its regulatory framework for cultures in the long run, in the short term we hope that China’s competent authorities will allow the continued import of European cheese,” the statement quoted Dr. Lin Huipeng, chair of the cheese industry desk at the European chamber, as saying. China has seen a series of scandals over food safety but Western products are widely seen as made to higher standards. Dairy products are not a typical part of a Chinese diet, but in recent years cheeses such as mozzarella have become popular as more Chinese hanker after Western dishes such as pizza. Strongly flavoured mould-ripened cheese is usually only available at restaurants and markets that cater to foreigners. Foreign business owners in Beijing told AFP they have not been able to get cheese orders through customs for several weeks.