China bans British cheese imports, after inspecting non-exporting dairy

China bans British cheese imports after food inspectors said hygiene standards in one dairy was not up to standard. UK cheese makers wonder whether China’s move is simply protectionism, given that the dairy they visited does not sell cheese to China. “Why inspect a place that does not sell to you?” they asked.

The bizarre restrictions that have been imposed after inspecting an irrelevant dairy should be lifted immediately, UK Farming Minister George Eustice has demanded.

China bans British cheese from May 1st

Despite visiting just one UK dairy that has never sold anything to China, authorities have said the ban applies to all UK cheeses made after May 1st, the same date a new food safety law comes into effect in China.

When the new law comes into force, supplies from abroad may be subject to sudden checks.

According to Mr. Eustice “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.”

The audit reportedly included complaints regarding maintenance, raw milk transport temperature, air sanitization, and chemical storage. The inspectors concluded that British dairies from now on would need to pass council inspections before China considers lifting the restriction.

Chinese ban on British cheese should be temporary

Apparently, Chinese officials are now liaising with the UK’s Food Standards Agency after carrying out their audit. People in the dairy industry say that as soon as the Food Standards Agency has carried out its own compliance checks, the issue with exports of cheese to China should be resolved.

In an interview with the BBC, Patty Clayton, a senior analyst at Dairy Co., a research body, 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.”

Clayton believes the issue will be dealt with relatively quickly and that the United Kingdom’s international reputation is unlikely to be put at risk.

Since 2008, when a number of children in China died from drinking tainted milk during the melamine crisis, Chinese authorities have become much more concerned about food safety.

According to Farmers Weekly, the UK exported 3.4 tonnes of dairy products to China in 2013, which accounted for just 0.4% of the country’s dairy exports. However, Clayton added that UK cheese exports to China are growing exponentially.