China’s recent ban on mold-ripened cheese is a good sign that consumer protection is improving in the country, said a European Union official in Beijing.
Importation of moldy cheese such as brie, camembert, Roquefort, and blue cheese was suspended by several China Inspection & Quarantine offices in July after consumer complaints of “too much bacteria.”
But the suspension was lifted in mid-October after EU officials in Brussels and Beijing explained to AQSIQ (the state-level branch governing all CIQs) and the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) that these bacterial cultures were not harmful to consumers’ health.
According to Jerome Lepeintre, the Minister-Counsellor at the EU Delegation to China in Beijing, the suspension was a “precautionary approach” by the local government. “It’s not a political issue,” he said. “Not a retaliation. Just a technical issue.”
This technical issue is due to China’s outdated cheese standards. Lepeintre said the EU is currently working with Chinese authorities to bring the mainland in line with the Codex Alimentarius, a list of internationally recognized guidelines adopted by most countries.
While the cheese suspension primarily caused angst among China’s expat community, the move is “a demonstration that consumers have some power in China,” Lepeintre said.
“When they’re complaining, the authorities are taking action, not like in the past. I think we should underline this positive point.”