Set up by experts from the Oregon state department of agriculture, the China-US Peace Food Inspection Centre will offer third party sampling, testing and certification of agricultural and fishery products so that they meet standards required by the US Food and Drug Administration.
It is the first venture of its kind in China, and comes as a major food safety scare over melamine contamination in milk looks set to make life much tougher for Chinese exporters.
“There is an immediate, critical need for this as so many food products moving between China and the US are being blocked by FDA over concerns about their safety,” explained Dalton Hobbs, assistant director of the Oregon department of agriculture, agricultural development and marketing division.
China may be among the top three exporters of food and food ingredients to the US, estimated Hobbs.
“What we’re trying to do is carry out pre-import inspection as well as improve the information available to FDA including test results of these products,” said Hobbs, following a presentation on the venture at the China international food safety and quality conference in Beijing today.
This will help reduce the delays incurred when products reach US ports but cannot be cleared owing to a lack of information.
The 8,000 square metre centre, which is still being set up in the port city of Zhuhai close to Hong Kong, will also play a role in developing equivalent standards, a subject under much debate among food safety experts.
All exporters need to know what international authorities are looking for and how they are testing for those substances.
“Often food authorities are testing for discreet levels of residues but the results may depend on the methodology,” explained Hobbs.
By making such methods more transparent to exporters, the new inspection centre will help them meet standards.
Funded by privately owned Zhuhai Peace Logistics Company, the centre is still installing equipment and has started testing of sampling and lot identification procedures in shrimp operations in Guangdong province.
In the future it will also work with exporters on testing and certification for other markets like the EU and Japan as well as helping US firms import to China.
The Oregon team is working closely with the local China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) office and scientists from the South China Agricultural University.