City lawmakers call for better food safety

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-25 06:50

Beijing's legislature yesterday urged the municipal government to overhaul the city's food safety system, particularly to avoid any scandals during the upcoming Olympic Games.

The capital should improve supervision of food safety and crack down on small agricultural-products markets, restaurants and family-run food processing mills, Lin Wenyi, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, said at the committee's 37th session yesterday.

She noted that sanitary conditions at such businesses were worrying.

Lin said members of the Standing Committee had identified food safety "loopholes" while inspecting food health and safety regulations in the city this year.

"We found many small restaurants were operating without legal licenses. They were clustered in the transitional area between the city and its suburbs," she said.

"Their sanitary situation is extremely poor, which poses severe food security hazards."

The city clamped down more than 10,000 small food processors and unlicensed restaurants last year, Lin said.

She added that in addition to ensuring food safety in the Olympic Village and at sports venues, more efforts should be made to monitor catering businesses in the city's outskirts, tourist resorts, hotels and transportation hubs.

The municipal government yesterday said it would strengthen the supervision for the city's catering business by increasing routine patrol and putting the breakfast market under scrutiny.

The city is also mulling its first special law on food safety, which lays out a series of tougher measures to strengthen supervision and deter any activity that could jeopardize food safety.

Businesses could face fines of as much as 500,000 yuan ($66,000) and have their licenses revoked if they are found using substandard raw materials or inedible additives, according to the regulation, which was tabled for discussion at the session yesterday.

The regulation also plans to grant local food safety supervision departments the power to order food sellers and manufacturers to recall goods that found to be unsafe. Businesses could be fined as much as 500,000 yuan and lose their licenses if they refuse to do so.

Individuals found criminally liable for food safety violations could face a lifetime ban from engaging in food-related businesses.

Zhang Zhikuan, director of the food safety supervision and coordination office of the Beijing municipal government, said the public unanimously approved of "harsher" punishments for activities that affect food safety.

(China Daily 07/25/2007 page3)

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