The EU is to allow more food imports from China after the country made significant improvements in veterinary standards.

The EU Member States meeting in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health agreed on a European Commission proposal to authorise the import from China of shrimps, farmed fish, honey, royal jelly, rabbit meat and a number of other products of animal origin.

Exporters will have their products checked by the Chinese food safety authorities and each consignment will be certified as meeting the relevant EU food safety standards.

In January 2002 imports of all products of animal origin from China were stopped because the EU considered China's system to control residues of veterinary medicines in farmed animals to be too lax. China has since then made considerable progress in tightening its food and feed safety controls. The 2002 ban was partially relaxed last year and the Commission said it is confident that, provided proper controls continue, imports of these other animal-based products from China can now safely be allowed.

However, the Commission said it still has concerns about the safety of chicken and other poultry meat from China - particularly given the recent re-emergence of avian influenza in East Asia. The EU's ban on the import of poultry products from China will therefore remain in place.

The import of pork, beef and dairy products from China has never been authorised because of various animal diseases prevalent in China, such as foot and mouth disease.