The integration of China’s food safety standards with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) will “drastically improve” food safety in the country, Danone has argued.

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

It is managed by the Consumer Goods Forum and in recent months China has made moves to line up its food safety schemes with the global initiative.

“People will know better how to manage risk because people here don’t have the right knowledge,” Yves Rey, quality manager at Danone and GFSI board chairman told a conference on the initiative in Beijing.

The GFSI signed a memorandum of understanding with China on food safety last November and followed this with a second MoU with in March, which will allow the initiative to match the country’s food safety HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) certification system with its global standards.

Rey said the necessary changes could be agreed by December and he told the conference on Beijing’s concern about the risks of food safety had increased China’s enthusiasm to adapt GFSI.

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“Public health is tied to social stability,” he noted, which is why it established a national HACCP system after the 2008 melamine scandal.

The government was also concerned about the international ambitions of Chinese food exporters, Rey noted. “I explained that if the standard is recognised it will help Chinese companies to export without duplication at less cost. China likes to be seen as an international trend setter … they know HACCP was adapted to show Chinese consumers that something is in place whereas the GFSI adaption will help Chinese food producers and retailers go global. Wal-Mart Stores or Danone can’t ask for anything more than GFSI.”

Implementation costs will be less a problem for suppliers than operating management systems and finding people with the right experience, he added. “You set the bar and then you give training.”