Expat joy as China lifts ban on mould ripened Western cheese

Published:  27 Oct at 6 PM
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Expats whose gastronomic pleasures were all but ruined due to China’s recent ban on mould-ripened cheeses are celebrating the lifting of the bizarre rule.

The ban caused controversy across the cheese-producing world as well as distress to expat lovers of Roquefort, Camembert and other examples of the cheese-makers’ skill. The Chinese themselves, no lovers of mouldy cheese, simply didn’t care as they could still buy the local version or avoid it altogether. The ban didn’t even affect Chinese import tax totals as the quantities crossing the border were so small they weren’t even annotated.

The Chinese authorities never bothered to post a reason for the ban, but EU representatives took it seriously enough to demand a meeting with officials from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. The EU officials’ line of reasoning was that banning cheese because it contains ‘too many bacteria’, wasn’t exactly a sensible reaction. Also mentioned were the Chinese versions of mould-ripened cheeses, plus the fact they were perfectly legal although not half as good.

Whatever the arguments, the representatives of EU cheese makers won hands down, and the ban was lifted. Oddly, the removal of the ban wasn’t especially favourable to traditional EU cheese makers, as the bulk of the imported cheeses originated in Australia and New Zealand. As a result, antipodean cheese makers now owe the EU a big favour, and new stock is expected to arrive across China within the next five to six weeks.

It seems China has a history of banning Western-style cheeses, with longer-term expats still remembering the ludicrous ban on British cheese which took place in 2014. Formerly deprived expat cheese-lovers will soon be enjoying their Stilton, Danish Blue, Roquefort and Camembert, but are wondering when the next bizarre ban will arrive. In fact, the Chinese cheese market is growing year-by-year and is expected to reach an all time high of around $800 million in 2017. That’s an increase of 26 per cent over last year’s total, giving yet another reason for the government to stop messing with the market.
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