BEIJING - China recognises the presence of natural nitrite in bird's nest and will lift the import ban on the products from Malaysia after determining a permissible level, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
He said the Chinese authorities understood that the presence of nitrite was a natural occurrence when swiflets were raised.
"We reached a very important consensus today after we explained to them why there is natural nitrite in our bird's nest.
"We agreed that there should be no nitrite additive in Malaysian bird's nest exports to China during the production process.
"But the Chinese authorities will allow the presence of natural nitrite in the product," he said after meeting Chinese health officials here yesterday.
Liow said both sides had set up a working committee comprising food specialists and experts with immediate effect, to determine the permissible level of nitrite in bird's nest products.
The committee will be headed by the ministry's food safety and quality division senior director Noraini Mohd Othman and two Chinese officials from relevant agencies.
"The committee started work today and Noraini will stay in China to discuss how we will work out the details and the timetable for nitrite standards," Liow added.
He had led a delegation of officials and bird's nest exporters to China to discuss the issue with the Chinese authorities following reports of fake Malaysian bird's nest.
Federation of Malaysia Bird's Nest Associations president Datuk Paduka Beh Heng Seong said Malaysian bird's nest exporters would adhere to the nitrite standards as long as the permissible level was reasonable.
"We have assured the Chinese authorities that we will further improve the quality of our products and restore Chinese consumers' confidence in Malaysian bird's nest," he said.