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New system aims to boost ‘Made in China’ brand

By Jane Byrne , 01-Oct-2008
Last updated the 01-Oct-2008 at 13:22 GMT

A new online traceability system for Chinese ingredients and products will provide quick and accurate information for food companies, consumers and regulators, claims it developers.

TraceTracker Innovation, with headquarters in Norway, has announced that it signed an agreement with the Shandong Institute of Standardization (SDIS) to establish the web platform, ChinaTrace, which it claims will help ensure the quality and safety of Chinese produce and boost the ‘Made in China’ brand.

The move comes as the major food safety scare over melamine contamination in milk looks set to make life much tougher for Chinese exporters.

“Our starting point is the Shandong province, which is the number one exporter of agricultural products in China, but we anticipate expansion to other provinces,” said TraceTracker’s vice president of global development and strategy, Miodrag Mitic.

Dairy industry targeted

The SDIS has developed a platform for supervision of food quality and safety but Mitic told FoodProductionDaily.com that up to now, the Institute has not been involved in providing a traceability system for the Shandong dairy industry.

He said, however, that the new venture, ChinaTrace, will implement such a system.

According to Mitic, ChinaTrace is based on the Global Traceability Network – GTNet, and will provide professional advice on implementing traceability based on current best practice and internationally recognized standards.

Quick response

He said that new traceability system will be able to immediately respond to queries such as:

  • Where are Chinese made products and ingredients located in the supply chain?
  • Where, when, and in what quantities were they produced?
  • Which ingredients and processes were used to make them?
  • Were they safely made? Did they comply with export regulations and buyer requirements?
  • What specifications and quality assurance data is available for each of them?
  • Where, when, and in what quantities were they shipped to/from?

Third party verification

Mitic said that ChinaTrace will interact with independent third party verification service providers such as the inspection, verification, testing and certification company, SGS, as well as government agencies.

“A subscriber to the ChinaTrace service with trade links to a company with safety or quality issues will be alerted electronically with relevant records provided by the company in question and/or the relevant public oversight agency,” claims Mitic

He said that it is the intention of ChinaTrace to eventually provide traceability for all food and beverage products using Chinese made ingredients: “It shall happen progressively, rather than in a big bang.”

Transparency

Last week, at an international food safety conference in Beijing, experts from Europe, the US and China agreed that the booming economy needed to bolster supervision of its food industry and step up law enforcement.

But companies also need to follow ‘basic business ethics’, said Weiming Jiang, president of DSM China.

His comments followed the revelation from China’s State Council that Sanlu, the country’s biggest milk formula producer, had waited for several months before reporting problems with its product.

Four babies have died and almost 13,000 were hospitalised after drinking Sanlu formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. Sanlu had received reports that babies were falling ill as far back as December 2007.

Responsibility

“Social responsibility is important. It’s a hearts and minds issue, not only a regulation issue,” explained Jiang, adding that companies in China need to learn about transparency.

He said that DSM has developed a system of reporting for its suppliers. “On top of reporting income, companies should also report their responsibility. We get our suppliers to sign a contract with us to report on how they monitor food safety.”

Robert Madelin, director general of the European Commission’s DG Sanco, also pointed to the weakness in China’s reporting system. “The law must be strengthened, as we learned in Europe, to put positive obligations on operators to check safety, a strong obligation to record…and a legal obligation that economic operators tell food safety officials. You check, record and tell.”

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