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Cooked food heats up safety bill

By Li Wenfang | China Daily | Updated: 2012-01-05 09:53

GUANGZHOU - Tighter licensing and banning unlicensed food processors are two measures needed to improve the poor quality of cooked food in Guangzhou markets, says a new proposal.

The proposal, to be presented to the Guangzhou committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, notes that producers of unpacked cooked food currently only need to obtain a food circulation permit.

Many of them process food in unlicensed workshops with poor sanitation, and some producers even use substandard materials in food processing.

The annual session of the conference opens on Tuesday.

Recent tests of unpacked cooked food found that of 100 samples of meat, flour-based food, preserved vegetables, soybean products and algae products, only 38 passed the inspection.

No cold dried bean curd or cold algae products passed the tests, which were carried out at seven supermarkets in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, by the city's consumers' commission.

Excessive microorganisms were the main reason for failing the tests. Fifty-five samples contained excessive coliform and 12 had golden staph.

Meanwhile, in tests of unpacked cooked food at supermarkets in Guangzhou by the city's commerce authority in the third quarter of last year, only 28 of the 71 samples passed the tests. In addition to excessive bacteria, excessive use of coloring agents was also spotted.

The situation at other markets, such as wet markets, is more worrying, says the proposal.

It also suggests that separate cooked food processing areas be built in local markets, with closer scrutiny over them.

Standards concerning the processing, storage and transport of those food products remain unspecified.

Some supermarkets, on the other hand, have been lax in selecting suppliers and failed to install protective facilities in shelving the food.

Given that a number of government agencies are involved in food safety work, the proposal suggests that a shared information platform be built to prevent loopholes.

The food associations should also play a bigger role in supervising food enterprises, it says.

"Since cooked food goes through the production, transport and shelving steps, it is hard to guarantee the quality. Even packed food has quality problems, not to mention unpacked food," said Ding Honghui, a resident who was shopping at a supermarket in Guangzhou.

"As far as I know, many government departments are involved in safeguarding food safety. They should strengthen the supervision and work more closely," he said.

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