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China bans imports of soft European cheese

Beijing: Chinese Customs officials have banned a host of soft, mould-ripened cheese for containing “too much bacteria”, with authorities reportedly alarmed the mould contained colonies of bacteria that had not been officially approved.

The ban mainly affects French and Italian cheese, including brie, camembert, gorgonzola and roquefort, as well as the English delicacy stilton.

Sinodis, a distributor of foreign-based cheeses in Shanghai, sent a letter to customers announcing “cheese products containing certain moulds cannot temporarily be imported in China”. The company has stopped importing a laundry list of nearly 50 kinds of cheese since 23 August. The ban started in July in some cities, but was expanded nationwide this week.

According to customs data, China imported more than £300m of cheese last year but the statistics do not specify which varieties made up the bulk of that. Most of the strong, pungent cheeses affected by the ban are unpopular with Chinese people and are mostly consumed by foreign residents.

China previously banned British cheese in 2014 when the food standards agency complained about hygiene standards at an unnamed dairy, but later lifted the prohibition. Italian mozzarella faced a similar ban in 2008 when the government ordered a recall, fearing some products contained carcinogens.

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