Is New Zealand becoming too reliant on China as a customer for primary product exports?
The director general of China’s Department of Food Safety Supervision (CFDA), Zhang Jing, says it is also looking into infant formula labeling and marketing tactics used by manufacturers.
Jing made the comments at the China and New Zealand International Food Safety Forum in Auckland recently.
He told 200 conference attendees that China has too many brands and formulas: 108 manufacturing plants churn out 2000 formulas.
Jing says too many formulas add to the confusion caused by “exaggerated” labeling and advertising.
Manufacturers expand one formula into a range of formulas, with little change to the ingredient mix, done simply to mislead consumers.
“Some labeling and advertising falsely claim to use imported raw materials; other formulas have ingredients that should not be there,” he says.
“This presents a lot of hidden dangers to consumers; it’s hard for common people and consumers to make the right choice. They are asking us ‘what brand of infant formula should we be buying?’”
A new 2015 China Food Safety Law requires registration of product formula; it became effective on October 1 last year. The law requires manufacturers to comply with various new regulations for labeling and product registration by January 1, 2018.
Jing says this shows determination by Chinese authorities to improve the safety of infant formula.
He urged manufacturers to pay more attention to regulations.
“Manufacturers need to do more; too many formulas lack scientific support; consumers are struggling to make the right choice.”
Jing says the Government plans to limit formulas per manufacturer.
China produced 800,000 tonnes of infant formula last year; it imported another 200,000 tonnes.
Jing says China’s domestic output isn’t enough to meet demand.
He says overseas manufacturers find the Chinese market lucrative, but he urged them to also fully comply with regulations.
“We regulate to limit the abuse of infant formula during promotion and marketing; it’s all ensuring and guaranteeing consumer safety for food. It’s a huge responsibility for us.”
Speaking at the conference, National MP and former Fonterra executive Todd Muller says consumers’ trust must be earned. Consumers want to know more about their food; where it comes from and how it is produced.
He urged NZ and Chinese companies to work together on food safety.