Retailers on alert for product quality

By Diao Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-25 06:50

Retailers in China are cleaning up their act amid rising concerns about food safety and other domestically-made products at home and abroad.

Leading retailers including Carrefour, Wal-Mart, and Tesco are sending staff to courses on food safety, while improving their own food management systems to ensure the goods they sell are up to standard.

"We hope we can change the situation by improving ourselves and encouraging suppliers to pay attention to food safety," Guo Geping, chairwoman from China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), said at a press conference yesterday.

Food exported from China has become the target of increasing criticism on international markets.

But the local operations of international brand retailers have also faced backlash from Chinese consumers, including the French retailer Carrefour, which was accused of selling pork past its shelf life.

Retailers are training their management staff and operators, and gaining more knowledge from their foreign counterparts on store management.

Training is being provided through courses jointly provided by CCFA and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), a non-profit organization that offers courses on environmental and public health, based in Britain.

The training course, started last year by the two organizations, aims to improve the knowledge of retailing staff on food hygiene and logistics system. About 200 staff from 85 retailing enterprises in China have participated in the course since last year, according to Guo from CCFA.

Although universal standards on food safety are currently lacking in China, the enterprises are working to improve their internal systems.

Many have set up their own quality management system.

"There are still things that we cannot control, problems that we cannot find out by ourselves, " Wu Jianzhong, Chairman of Wumart Stores Inc, the largest supermarket chain in Beijing, said.

Contaminated duck eggs were first found at one of Wumart's chain stores in 2006.

(China Daily 07/25/2007 page3)

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