China, Southeast Asia Sign Pact on Food Safety

The agreement committed China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen efforts to ensure the safety of food and agricultural products imported between them.

China and Southeast Asia on Nov. 21 signed a pact on food safety at a regional summit here, pledging to cooperate to protect consumers and improve the handling of potential health threats.The agreement committed China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen efforts to ensure the safety of food and agricultural products imported between them.

Food safety standards have "important significance in safeguarding human, animal and plant health and facilitating and promoting regional trade," it said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, whose country has launched a campaign to keep dangerous goods from reaching store shelves worldwide following several scares. On Nov. 19 he reiterated his commitment to ensuring food and product safety."We take product quality and food safety seriously and we will work to uphold the interests of both Chinese and foreign consumers," Wen said in a speech at the National University of Singapore.

China and ASEAN agreed in the food safety pact to establish a system to communicate laws, regulations and standards of the nations involved.The system would also notify the 11 countries of "pests, diseases, poisonous and hazardous substances," it said, as well as setting out procedures for inspection and quarantine of food, animals and plants.

The government has said a four-month campaign launched in August is aimed at strengthening inspection and monitoring efforts, while tightening production licensing and labeling requirements. China has also suspended imports of seafood and other products from Southeast Asian countries in recent months, including Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, citing health reasons.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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