US food and agriculture company Cargill is to establish a joint food safety management training programme with China's Quality, Inspection and Quarantine Service (AQSIQ).
Cargill said in a statement that it will provide Chinese government officials, academics and business leaders with a two week food safety training programme to expand their expertise and knowledge in food safety management.
Cargill said that the programme was part of a global initiative involving the company and selected academic, inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions to better harmonise global food safety systems.
The firm hopes in this way to share its food safety expertise with its Chinese partners. Greg Page, Chairman and Chief Executive of Cargill said: "the minister of AQSIQ, and I reached an agreement on this programme by direct communication. Safe food is a global concern. We produce food in China to the same standards we do in the United States or Europe. I'm very pleased that AQSIQ will work together with Cargill to provide cooperation on global best practices in the food safety management area."
Cargill said that participants will have the opportunity to talk with their western government counterparts, intergovernmental organisations and multinational corporate partners.
AQSIQ will select up to 25 participants. Cargill will provide financial support and help design and implement the training programme. There will be food safety training from the private sector, international food standards organisations, government officials and academic institutions based in Europe and America. The programme is expected to take place later this year.
Assuring the safety of food and ingredients coming from China has become a priority following a number of major contamination cases last year.
In April, wheat gluten products imported from China for use in pet food were found to have been contaminated with banned chemical melamine and were blamed for animal deaths. This uncovered a host of other cases that have left manufacturers who buy ingredients from the country under pressure to demonstrate they are sourcing responsibly and regulators scrambling to assure consumers their food is safe.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also stepped up efforts to assure the safety of Chinese products.
However, despite the FDA's efforts to convince the American public that food imports are safe there has been a perception that imports from China might be problematic. An article in the Washington Post in May 2007 claimed that the FDA detained 107 food imports from China the month before, along with over a thousand shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, cosmetics and medicines.
Recently the FDA said that it is to begin carrying out checks on Chinese food products. Eight new positions will be created over the next 18 months, provided final approval comes from Beijing.
The staff will be based in the US Embassy in Beijing and the US Consulates General in Shangai and Guangzhou. They will work alongside Chinese experts in carrying out inspections of food production plants where output is destined for the US.
Washington and Beijing agreed to work together to improve food safety in December 2007 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.