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China Daily Website

Report: Food safety not trusted

Updated: 2012-05-17 13:51
By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou ( China Daily)

When Xie Cuilan returned home from the vegetable market on Wednesday morning, she put the water spinach she bought into the sink in her kitchen.

She then put a spoonful of salt into the sink and opened the tap.

"I usually soak the vegetable in light salt water for more than an hour before I cook it," the Guangzhou housewife told China Daily on Wednesday.

"The idea is to dilute left-over pesticide on the vegetable," the 42-year-old said.

"I don't trust officials' food quality examinations," she added.

Xie is not alone. Many residents of the Guangdong provincial capital believed only they themselves can ensure food safety.

A recent survey found that more than 46 percent of residents in this southern metropolis said they do not trust that their food is safe. Only 11 percent said they were satisfied with food safety.

The survey was conducted by Guangzhou Public Opinion Research Center in March and released on Wednesday. A total of 1,012 people aged 16 to 65 years old, who live in the city's 10 districts and two county-level suburbs were interviewed.

More than 37 percent of respondents said they have been the victims of food safety problems in recent months, and 16 percent even complained that their health had been harmed by substandard or toxic food.

Meanwhile, 42 percent of the residents are not satisfied with authorities' law enforcement work regarding food safety. That is in contrast to 14 percent who said they were satisfied.

Fifty-two percent complained that authorities have not done enough to investigate and deal with the illegal activities and that punishments were not severe enough to deter offenders.

Older people have less faith in food safety, the survey found.

About 48 percent of the respondents aged 51 to 60 said they are concerned about food safety. The figure is 25 percentage points higher than what was reported by those aged 16 to 18.

The survey follows an increasing number of food poisoning cases in the past year in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

A large number of cases of unsafe pork and cured meat as well as milk and vegetables contaminated with farm chemicals have been investigated in the past months and the products seized, according to the provincial authorities.

Zheng Fenming, director of the Institute of Modernization Strategy under Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said he was not surprised about the growing number of residents who lack faith in food safety after the recent slew of cases reported.

"The food safety authority has made great efforts to fight counterfeiting and other illegal activities, but it is far from enough to deter the lawbreakers," Zheng said on Wednesday.

Chen Qingyuan, a Guangzhou white-collar worker, said food authorities should increase the punishment for producing and selling substandard and toxic food.

"The cost of such illegal activities is rather low. On top of heavy fines, counterfeiters who cause serious harm should get life sentences or even the death sentence," he said.