China reverses ban on ‘mouldy’ cheese imports

Complaints from consumers unable to buy their favourite cheese forced Chinese officials to lift restrictions 

Soft cheese consumers in China will once again be able to buy their favourite type after the country’s government decided to reverse a ban that it implemented two months ago. 

These so-called “mouldy” cheeses were banned because of the techniques used in their production. Even though these techniques have been used for centuries, the Chinese were concerned they posed a risk to public health. 

The ban applied to specific types of European cheese such as Roquefort, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola or Stilton, which have been safely imported and consumed in China for decades. 

Refuting the argument, the European Union said its position has always been clear in that the techniques and cultures questioned by the Chinese have been used by EU cheese makers for centuries, and European cheeses “clearly do not pose a risk to consumer health.” 

According to World Trade Organization rules, all members have to accept international production standards unless there is a justified risk.

However, it appears Chinese consumers were not happy about the ban and started to complain. 

Although dairy produce was typically once not a major part of the Chinese consumer’s diet, cheese consumption in the country is on the increase, thanks to a growing fondness for fast food, particularly pizza. In fact, China imported more than $400 million worth of cheese last year. 

These complaints forced a number of meetings between the European Commission’s experts in trade and health and food safety and their Chinese counterparts.

As a result, the Chinese authorities have agreed to lift the trade obstacles and update their rules on cheese. 

The commission’s delegation and the French embassy in China have also proposed to organise a technical seminar between European and Chinese experts on relevant cheese standards in a bid to limit the risk of further trade obstacles.

“We are very happy about the decision,” said Vincent Marion, the co-founder of Cheese Republic, a cheesemonger in China.

“I think it’s a way for China to show they’re really open-minded to selling foreign products and especially cheese.”

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