MSU food safety experts say Chinese imports need to improve

November 27, 2007

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Over recent months, a long list of consumer goods from China - everything from seafood to toothpaste to toys - have been the objects of recalls.

And while some quality-control improvements are being made, a team of MSU researchers just back from China say they still have a long way to go.

"There are problems with a lack of trained staff to do the certifications, lack of training for producers and distributors and inadequate government oversight leading to misuse of labels," said Larry Busch, University Distinguished professor of sociology and director of MSU's Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards.

Busch was a member of a team of MSU researchers which took part in the international research symposium on Certification and Traceability for Food Safety and Quality in China.

To date, a wide range of systems of certification and traceability have been put into practice in China, but they are neither consistent with each other nor widely understood.

"Certification is when I buy something that has a label showing that someone inspected and found it to be in conformity," Busch said. "Traceability means that I can buy something at the supermarket and find out easily where it was produced, down to the level of the farm."

With the worldwide growth of trade in food and agricultural products, and China emerging as a major player, there has been growing global public concern and awareness of food safety and quality. In addition, this growing awareness can be used to promote environmental improvements in the countryside by reducing agricultural chemical use.

"Food and agricultural products require greater attention to safety, quality and environmental issues," Busch said. "These are now major concerns of the Chinese and other governments as well as of retailers and consumers."

Michigan State University

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