Shanghai ban leaves European cheese makers high and dry

09 Sep 2017


Shanghai has reportedly halted the import of soft French cheeses such as Roquefort, brie and camembert in a move likely to damage European exporters.

Products containing bacteria found in the rind of brie and camembert and bacteria used to produce blue cheese are affected by the ban, said several reports on Friday citing diplomatic and industry sources.

''We haven't been able to get our orders through customs for three weeks. Our suppliers say food hygiene authorities have tightened their rules,'' Vincent Marion, a co-founder of Shanghai-based cheese seller Cheese Republic, told AFP.

The retailer can currently sell only hard cheese like cheddar, Comte, and Manchego, according to Marion.

''This effectively means that China is banning famous and traditional European cheeses that have been safely imported and consumed in China for decades. There is no good reason for the ban because China considers the same cheese safe if produced in China,'' William Fingleton, a spokesman for the Delegation of the European Union to China, told CNNMoney.

Fingleton stressed that European producers were extremely concerned by the measure, which might potentially affect other types of cheese.

A spokeswoman for Shanghai Fuzhen Commerce, a foreign food importer, said the notice of the ban was received from the regulator in June. However, the suppliers began sounding the alarm about two weeks ago, according to Marion.

Chinese media reported the country's food hygiene regulator had also banned canned soups and baking powder.

It is not clear why Shanghai, one of the main entry ports for most of the products, has imposed the suspension.

Such cheeses are made with cultures not authorised in China, a European diplomat who confirmed the decision to The Independent said, but the country has allowed them to come in for years.

''The European cheese industry is extremely concerned by this ban,'' said the diplomat quoted by The Independent, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

He said the ban impacts European cheeses more than others because of the large variety of cultures used in European cheese. China permits a relatively small number of edible cultures for use in food.

There was no immediate comment from the European Commission or the French farm ministry.

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