Regulations for Systematic Inspection of Imported Food and WTO SPS Consistency: A Preliminary Assessment
Against the backdrop of global food safety governance, the government has to take appropriate regulatory actions to address import safety issues due to the substantial dependence on imported food and feed products. Competent authorities, as a matter of institutional design, may approach food safety regulation via a myriad of methodologies, including ex ante systematic audit, border control, and post-market surveillance. Among such methodologies, the ex ante systematic audit stands crucial in determining whether a high-risk food product should be granted market access and imported. The Regulations for Systematic Inspection of Imported Food is promulgated as per Article 35.1 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation to serve this very purpose. The Regulations stipulate the scope, rules, and processes of systematic audits, and apply only to meat and meat products at the moment. The Regulations authorizes competent authorities to conduct document reviews as well as on-site foreign inspections so as to determine whether the food safety management system of a given exporting country may be recognized as equivalent. This Article introduces the Regulations for Systematic Inspection of Imported Food, examining the normative contents and implementation issues therein. Premised upon such a review, this Article moves to offer a preliminary analysis on the Regulations’ (in)consistency with relevant rules under the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, including inter alia non-discrimination, risk analysis, and other procedural requirements.