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China lifts temporary ban on British cheese exports

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By Mark Astley+

Last updated on 09-Jun-2014 at 14:05 GMT

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has welcomed China's decision to lift the temporary ban applied to British cheese exports.

In a statement issued on June 6 2014, Defra announced that the ban on British cheese exports to China, implemented in April 2014 after “issues related to maintenance, air sanitation, raw milk transport temperatures and chemical storage” were identified at a single facility, had been lifted.

Cheesemakers were informed that the trade block would remain in place until all UK cheese plants exporting to China had been audited by local authorities.

Now, with this second round of inspections seemingly completed, British cheesemakers have been given the green light to restart shipments to China.

Defra, which worked alongside the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Chinese officials to reestablish the flow of cheese to China, welcomed the news.

“The Chinese market is vital for the UK with exports of food, feed and drink worth £257m last year," said the statement. "We appreciate the Chinese authorities’ help and support to resolve this quickly.”

Food safety laws

The April 2014 inspections that resulted in the temporary ban were carried by out Chinese officials prior to the introduction of new food safety laws.

Under the revised regulations, which came into force on May 1 2014, only dairy products manufactured at facilities approved by the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) are permitted to enter the country.

As of June 5 2014, a total of 14 British cheese manufacturers, including First Milk, Adams Food, and Wensleydale Dairy Products, had been granted permission to export their cheese products to China.

These firms were informed on Friday that the temporary ban had been lifted. approached a number of the listed cheesemakers to gauge reaction to the news, but none replied prior to publication.

DairyUK, which represents the interests of the entire British dairy supply chain, also declined the opportunity to comment on Friday's announcement.

CNCA lists

The CNCA lists were established following the issuance of Decree 145 (Administrative Measures for Registration of Overseas Manufacturers) by the State General Administration of the People's Republic of China for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine in December 2013.

In line with the new regulation, foreign authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Defra, were required to provide CNCA with a list of accredited dairy manufacturers. 

This tightening of legislation has already produced results.

On June 1, CNCA announced that just 94 foreign liquid and powdered infant formula brands manufactured at 49 separate facilities across Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North America had been granted permission to enter the country. 

Prior to the rule change, between 800 and 1,000 imported infant formula brands were reportedly available in China.

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