China temporarily bans British cheese imports
- 5 May 2014
- From the section Business
China has temporarily banned imports of British cheese after the country's food inspectors complained about hygiene standards at an unnamed UK dairy.
The Chinese officials were reportedly dissatisfied with its maintenance and storage, raw milk transport temperatures and air sanitisation.
However, the dairy they visited does not export its produce to China.
UK Farming Minister George Eustice has called for restrictions to be lifted "as soon as possible".
The ban applies to all cheese made after 1 May, which is also the date a new food safety law came into effect on the Chinese mainland.
Under this new inspection regime, overseas suppliers may be subject to checks.
Mr Eustice said: "British cheese is the best in the world and produced to the highest safety and quality standards, so it is disappointing that China have put a temporary block on cheese imports.
"Food inspectors will now visit all factories exporting cheese to China to demonstrate their high standards, so these restrictions can be lifted as soon as possible."
A Defra spokeswoman added that there was "no need for concern at all".
As part of their audit in Europe, Chinese officials found problems at one British dairy and are now working with the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The FSA is set to carry out its own compliance checks, with the temporary suspension is expected to be lifted once the issue has been resolved.
Patty Clayton, senior analyst at industry research body Dairy Co, said: "In the UK, we have a very good record for food safety and I don't think this particular temporary ban should worry anybody locally, as there are just some minor details that need to be sorted out."
Mrs Clayton said the UK's international reputation was unlikely to be put at risk and that the issue was likely to be dealt with "relatively quickly".
She added that China had placed a high priority on food safety in the wake of the 2008 melamine crisis, in which six children died from drinking tainted milk.
Britain exports more than 11 tonnes of cheese to China annually.
This represents less than 1% of the total exported outside the EU by British cheese makers every year but the Chinese cheese industry is growing "exponentially", added Mrs Clayton.