China rolls out meat safety rule

 

By Mark Godfrey 16-Jun-2017

 

The state agency overseeing China’s Food Safety Law is requiring all regions to establish a “standardised safe meat supermarket” – a designation which retailers can apply for but will become compulsory to stamp out tainted meat.

 

Under the move – which looks set to favour large suppliers and retailers of meat – the State Council has tasked local offices of the Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), which polices the country’s food safety law, with ensuring there’s a ‘demonstration’ supermarket in each town and municipality to set a standard in food safety which others should follow.

 

Announcing the initiative, a recent circular from the food safety bureau at the State Council – China’s cabinet – has called for the setting up of local ‘fang xin’ demonstration supermarkets for selling meat and other fresh foods across the nation. Fang xin has become a synonym for safe food in China – the term translates variously as ‘rest easy’ or ‘be reassured’.

 

The food safety office attached to each local government is likewise required to publish “concrete plans” by September and must hold publicity events to promote the establishment of the supermarket so consumers and other retailers are aware of the higher standards of food safety and traceability the supermarkets represent.

 

Gaps in meat quality

 

“There are still gaps in quality and safety of meat and vegetables sold in supermarkets,” notes the State Council circular, which also stipulates that the ‘demonstration’ supermarkets will have to display the name, location and other details of all their suppliers in store and online. Such information is lacking in most Beijing supermarkets where fresh meat is cut at the counter with various other branded, processed meats available in the aisles.

 

China’s retail scene is highly regionalised and fragmented, though several big names – Carrefour and WalMart among them – have national reach. State-owned retailer Jing Ke Long is effectively a subsidiary of the Beijing government and sells fresh local meat from unidentified sources. It won’t be a ‘fang xin’ supermarket, said Liu He, manager of a Jing Ke Long outlet in Fengtai district, in response to queries for this article. He foresees a big change to meat retailing: “It’s obvious that smaller retailers unable to meet the new standards will be forced to close or amalgamate…this suits big, established retailers and their suppliers.”

 

The State Council circular document also makes reference to an “instruction” supermarket for each town which will act as a training point for retail staff from various retailers, in what would be an extraordinary act of generosity in what is a very competitive market.

 

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