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Beijing inspects summer edibles
( 2003-07-22 09:43) (China Daily)

Beijing health authorities are kicking off a 10-day food inspection campaign Tuesday to ensure a safe market for consumers in the summertime, a period known for a high incidence of food poisoning.

Outdoor catering at night, which is very popular in Beijing during the summer, and food preparation at construction sites, are the key targets of the spot check, said Guo Jiyong, vice-director of the Beijing Health Bureau who is also in charge of this inspection.

Guo said at a press conference yesterday that a total of 23 food poisoning cases involving 457 people have been reported between June 14 and July 9. The figure for the same period last year is only one case involving 15 people.

He said 16 of the 23 cases were caused by bacteria. Some 390 people were infected with symptoms including abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

"In summer, food is liable to go bad due to high temperatures and heavy moisture. Food safety thus arouses more concern from the public," said Guo. "But the hygiene conditions of some outdoor catering businesses and construction sites are not good enough, as more than half of the food poisoning cases were reported at these places."

Many Beijing residents like to eat out on warm summer evenings, and it is a common scene in streets and lanes to see people sitting around dining tables in the open air, drinking beer and having some snacks.

There are some potential food safety hazards lying in food processing and the channels to replenish food supplies at restaurants, said Deng Ying, an official with the health bureau.

Deng said that in previous years, his bureau often forbade restaurants from conducting outdoor business in certain areas to prevent food poisoning cases.

But this year, due to the outbreak of SARS, the municipal government took various measures to help the badly-hit catering sector recover. Health authorities need to make more efforts to check the hygiene situation of these restaurants and help them improve standards of cleanliness rather than simply ordering them to shut down, said Deng.

More than 1,100 health inspectors will participate in the around-the-clock checks covering 18 districts and counties of the capital, according to Deng.

He said people who suffer from unhealthy food or food poisoning incidents can call the bureau's complaints hotline at 6500-7266.

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