Chinese customs officials started allowing marbled and soft-rind cheeses back into the country over the weekend for the first time since early September.
The reversal comes after European Union envoys petitioned Beijing on behalf of the continent’s beloved stinky cheeses, which China blocked over concerns that the bacteria used to produce them wasn’t safe.
The ban affected Italy’s pungent Gorgonzola and Taleggio, as well as French Brie, Roquefort and Camembert, Danish Blue and English Stilton.
While the cheeses use strains of bacteria not otherwise approved in China, Chinese health authorities have agreed that they do not pose a danger to consumers’ health.
People line up for samples at a cheese festival in Hong Kong. Photo: Dale de la Rey/AFP
Italy’s dairy industry welcomed the decision, which allows them to return to a growing market.
“The Chinese market is increasingly attractive for our businesses,” Giuseppe Ambrosi, president of Assolatte, the Italian dairy producers’ association, told La Stampa. “Between 2015 and 2016 sales of Italian cheeses rose by 42 percent.”
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He added that Italian and French officials were organizing a technical seminar in Beijing to help avoid any more costly misunderstandings over smelly cheese.
According to market researchers Euromonitor, China is expected to be the largest dairy market in the world by 2022 as the appetite for Western foods spreads and incomes rise.