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Other Issues (04-05-2006)

Health and Consumer Protection Director General Robert Madelin visits China

On 24-26 April, Health and Consumer Protection Director General Robert Madelin visited the People’s Republic of China. The trip followed the visit of Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou to Beijing in January, which set the tone for future cooperation. Mr Madelin met with a number of Ministers and business executives and concluded agreements on an action plan on toy safety.  Its aim is to implement a strategy for improving the safety of Chinese toys exported to the EU; in particular, within the Plan EU authorities  will provide training and technical assistance to their Chinese counterparts, and foster exchange of information and the tracing, feedback and follow-up of dangerous toys. Nearly one out of every four notifications to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX) concerns toys, and 85% of these originate from China. Many of these unsuitable or dangerous toys are low-end, unbranded products.  This agreement should set an example for other sectors on how to improve supply chain standards.  It will be formally signed during the visit of Minister Li, from the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ) to Brussels later in 2006.
With regards to the safety of food exported to the EU, Mr Madelin drew the attention of AQSIQ on a number of issues such as aflatoxins in peanuts (aflatoxins are toxic funguses that can lead to illnesses such as liver disease if ingested),  food contact materials and fraudulent exports . Mr Madelin also debriefed AQSIQ on the introduction of the new EU standards for lighters (child-resistant mechanism).
 Mr Madelin’s visit also focussed on better cooperation in food safety:  discussions with the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration paved the way for enhanced joint efforts, and this could result in the participation of the various Chinese ministries/organisations dealing with food safety in the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
Discussions with the Ministries of Health and Agriculture concentrated on Avian Influenza and human flu pandemic preparedness. Other issues discussed included the situation in China regarding infectious and chronic diseases, HIV/AIDS and the cooperation between  the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
On specific trade issues, Mr Madelin raised the question of access to the Chinese market for a number of EU products (such as pork products, dairy, fruit and vegetables). On the Chinese request to import cooked poultry meat into the EU, Robert Madelin stressed the need for more Avian Influenza-related surveillance around the poultry farms, in line with recommendations from the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO).