Taking part in the international Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) will help Chinese food group COFCO grow in overseas markets, the state-backed company has said.

Quality assurance manager Chen Zhigang said COFCO's bid to grow its food exports, will be assisted by GFSI certification.

The GFSI was an industry initiative launched in 2000 following a number of food safety crises hit consumer confidence.

Speaking at a GFSI conference in Beijing, Chen said COFCO's property arm was encouraging its food retail tenants to adopt the standard to boost sales among consumers wary of food safety in China.

Chen said membership of the GFSI had allowed COFCO executives to tour and learn from facilities run by Japanese retailer Aeon. He added COFCO's own suppliers have also been taken to GFSI member facilities "to learn from them".

Meanwhile, Hong Jiang, head of quality control at Chinese supermarket operator Vanguard, told the conference his firm will build 300 "showcase" shops with guaranteed high safety standards within three years. She said Vanguard controls distribution "field to fork" but needs better management particularly over in-store food additives, hygiene and raw materials.

State-owned Vanguard, which operates 450 stores in mainland China and Hong Kong is pursuing a policy of "reward and punish" said Hong, with prizes for managers of stores with the highest food safety performance. "Our annual quiz with 200,000 staff participating also helps raise food safety awareness."