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Supermarkets, hotels, restaurants urged to follow rules on foodstuffs
( 2004-01-13 22:22) (China Daily By Li Jing)

Food such as candied fruit and nuts sold in bulk are being scrutinized by health supervisors to prevent secondary pollution.

Beijing municipal food inspectors yesterday checked one of the Carrefour supermarkets about the questionable hygiene conditions involving loose, unpackaged food.

They found that every container of loose food must have a cover added, and consumers cannot directly touch the food but must ask special attendants to handle the goods they want.

Cai Changjing, an official with the Beijing Health Bureau, said the measures taken by the supermarket generally meet the requirements of a newly-implemented rule which took effect on January 1.

However, the tag posted on the plastic bag after a consumer chose food failed to have necessary information about when the food is produced.

"Loose food is much more likely to be contaminated if it is left to the open air, and consumers often neglect to notice the date stamping,'' said Cai. "All these pose health risks.''

He said his bureau would urge the supermarket to make more efforts according to the new rules, which was issued by the Ministry of Health.

Actually, food checks yesterday were just a small part of the 40-day-long food inspection process, which started on December 25. The inspections are aimed at ensuring a safe food market during the coming Spring Festival, China's Lunar New Year, which falls on January 22 this year.

The inspection group yesterday also visited a large open market primarily to check vegetables and fruit for residual amounts of pesticides.

There is a residue test centre stationed in the market. According to a health worker at the centre, they randomly choose 40 samples of vegetables and fruit every day, and more than 99 per cent of the products met national standards last year.

So far, they have not found any goods that did not meet standards this year, said a health worker who refused to be identified.

Deng Ying, another official with the health bureau, said the citywide food examination covered a wide range of food markets, such as hotels, restaurants and travel destinations.

He said by the end of last week, his bureau had revoked the licences of six food suppliers and urged more than 280 food companies to make improvement measures within a certain period.

"The Spring Festival is a traditional period for family reunions, during which people usually purchase a lot of foodstuffs and have dinner together with relatives and acquaintances,'' Deng said. "Food safety thus arouses more concerns from the public (during that period).''

He said that although the general condition of food safety was much improved and food poisoning accidents were effectively curbed last year, food scares involving matters such as agricultural chemical residues still arouse widespread complaints.

People who suffer from food poisoning cases or find poor-quality food may call 6506-6969, a hotline of the health bureau, said Deng.

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