Tianjin to step up food safety monitoring

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Tianjin will almost double food safety monitoring sites this year to ease growing public concern, an official said.

Lin Lijun, director of Tianjin Food and Drug Administration and a deputy to the city's people's congress, said the number of sites will increase from the current 660 to 1,200. They will cover supermarkets, wet markets selling aquatic and agricultural products, major hospitals and restaurants.

Food samples will be tested on a regular basis to check for pesticide residue, heavy metals and other items, and hospitals will be required to deliver regular reports on food borne diseases, Lin said on the sidelines of the ongoing Tianjin legislature's meeting.

Intensified food safety checks started in 2011, and the number of monitoring sites has increased since then. Lin's administration tested 5,000 samples last year.

But he said the lack of law enforcement has undermined food safety inspection.

Tianjin's efforts are part of a national campaign to remove substandard food from shelves. In neighboring Hebei province, a new food safety supervision regulation will be put into practice in March, which requires food booths and vendors to register their identities.

Li Yun, a lawmaker in Tianjin and a biotechnology researcher at the Institute of Biophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said excessive use of additives is one cause of food safety issues. Li said advanced food preservation technology can ensure products remain fresh after traveling long distances and also reduce the use of additives.

"Consumers want to try new things from across the nation and the world, such as fruits and vegetables in Xinjiang and Yunnan. That has compelled food processors to use excessive additives to preserve the food and has contributed to food safety challenges," she said.

Apart from strengthening food safety supervision and law enforcement, advanced technologies should be developed to help process and store food in a healthy and hygienic way, Li said.

The Ministry of Health is expected to release upgraded standards in June which set out a limit on the quantity of contaminants and residues in food, the ministry said on its website.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who leads the State Council's food safety committee, has urged government departments to strengthen technology research and upgrade food safety supervision.

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