Aon insurance posts warning over Chinese imports

EU businesses involved with importing food and beverage products from China face high risks, according to Aon insurance.

"While China has recently introduced a food safety act, similar to regulations seen in the EU, traditionally, quality management systems, food standards and hygiene levels have not been of comparable levels to those of EU manufacturers," said Aon insurance in a statement.

'The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed' revealed 345 safety alerts of food and beverage products originating from China in 2009.

This represents an improved number over 2008, when the EU reported 500 safety alerts of products originated from China, however it remains by far the largest number in comparison to all other countries worldwide.

Christof Bentele, global managing director of Aon’s product recall team, commented: "Many EU firms see the advantages of importing from China, and indeed there are many. However, the physical and regulatory distance between the EU and China make the risk of doing so higher than buying from a firm within the EU.

"The potential human cost of contaminated food or beverages should be enough to make any firm realise that pre-incident crisis planning and the enhancement of quality management procedures should be an absolute top priority. For everyone involved in food production, distribution and sales, prevention really is better than cure."

According to Aon, companies doing business with Chinese food suppliers, should check that:

  • supplied produce undergoes a strict quality management process and firms not only agree to food safety standards but monitor their implementation;
  • suppliers agree to, and monitor food safety standards, such as HACCP procedures, the internationally recognised food safety system;
  • a recall plan, in case a recall does have to be instituted, has been established;
  • an insurance programme for the risk of product contamination has been considered;
  • a system to trace back ingredients of the supplied foods has been put in place;
  • a crisis management plan in order to minimise the financial and reputational damage a recall can inflict on a company has been created.

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