Banned: China Goes Hard on Soft Foreign Cheese

Soft cheeses from overseas are now forbidden in China. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)
Soft cheeses from overseas are now forbidden in China. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

China has banned the import of soft cheese, angering foreign trade officials who say it is unjustified.

The nationwide ban — which came into place earlier this month — stops foreigners providing soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, and Stilton, to China’s relatively small but growing soft cheese market.

Chinese officials say foreign soft cheeses contain too much bacteria and consist of unapproved molds as well.

Most of the now-banned cheese was imported from New Zealand and Australia, but much of the publicized indignation has come from European officials.

“There is no good reason for the ban, because China considers the same cheese safe if produced in China,” said William Fingleton, a spokesman for the delegation of the European Union to China, in an email, reported The Guardian.

“This effectively means that China is banning famous and traditional European cheeses that have been safely imported and consumed in China for decades,” said Fingleton. “The entire Chinese market for soft cheeses is now closed.”

More than just a cheesy dispute

Diplomatic sources in the EU told Reuters the ban does not honor commitments, nor comply with international standards.

The sources said that they have made their objections known to the Chinese government, which has so far failed to respond to their concerns.

State-run Global Times has, however, downplayed the ban, which it said mainly affected smelly-soft cheese eating expats. Chinese people do not traditionally consume cheese.

Some commentators say the ban is a sign of a brewing trade dispute, related to European frustration over China’s lack of market liberalization.

“Now, Beijing is considering demanding a certificate of safe use for imported items like noodles, cookies, and candy, while the EU wants to impose tighter restrictions on Chinese investors,” wrote Stephan Scheuer, Handelsblatt Global’s correspondent in Beijing.

The EU is currently formulating a plan to subject Chinese investments in Europe to more scrutiny.

A lot of foreign things get banned in China. A few of them are listed in the video below by popular China-based vlogger laowhy86, who talks more about the soft cheese ban.

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