The majority of topics highlighted at a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting on food safety had already been discussed before.
At the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures meeting in July, members addressed specific trade concerns relating to food safety and animal and plant health.A total of 46 trade concerns were discussed — one new and 45 previously raised — covering issues such as pesticide residues, import restrictions due to BSE, COVID-19 related suspensions, delays in approval procedures, cadmium in chocolate and cocoa, and animal health-related restrictions.
The one new area was Canada’s restrictions on Brazilian pork from internationally recognized foot and mouth free zones without vaccination.
Ukraine shared information on the current functioning of its SPS infrastructure and other aspects of the food security situation. Russian officials said discussions about the war were outside the scope of the WTO.
U.S concern over Chinese rules
The United States repeated that it remains “deeply concerned” with China’s lack of explanation on how two decrees address food safety and public health. The United States said China has not provided the scientific basis or risk assessment that informed their development.The United States added that new registration requirements that came into effect after June 30, 2023 have caused “significant” confusion for exporters due to the lack of clear guidance. This issue has been ongoing since 2020 and other nations to express concern about the plans include Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
The European Union gave information on proposals around plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques and their food and feed, which sets out rules for the use of such plants as part of EU sustainability initiatives. The EU also reported on recommendations to combat antimicrobial resistance as part of the One Health approach.Japan provided an update on the Fukushima nuclear power station accident emphasizing that monitoring data shows the level of radioactivity is very low and Japanese food is safe for the public. In late August, Japan started releasing treated water from the site into the sea. China has suspended imports of seafood from Japan and Hong Kong banned aquatic products from 10 areas in Japan, including all live, frozen, chilled, dried or otherwise preserved aquatic products, sea salt, and unprocessed or processed seaweed.
Australian officials said they had confidence in the process that led to the decision to release the treated water and the move was also supported by the United States and United Kingdom.
The next meeting of the SPS Committee is scheduled for mid-November 2023.
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