As the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival draws near, the quality of mooncakes - an indispensable food for the celebration - moves into the spotlight after last year's stale fillings scandal.
However, it is hoped a recent inspection by the State Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine may ease any lingering doubts.
Test result shows that this year's mooncakes, produced by 76 large domestic manufacturers from 22 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, all meet State quality standards.
The Nanjing Guanshengyuan incident, where a famous mooncake maker in East China's Jiangsu Province was found putting years-old, leftover fillings in its newly made mooncakes, turned about 30 per cent of buyers off the national favourite last year.
This year, mooncake producers are striving to restore consumer confidence as the festival approaches.
According to a recent inspection in Nanjing, 99 per cent of mooncakes meet quality standards. Another test made by the Beijing Health Bureau last week also proved that 97.6 per cent of mooncakes are safe.
More consumers now prefer to buy mooncakes from large, famous companies for a better quality guarantee.
A survey by the China Social Research Institute (CSRI) indicates that 71 per cent of people will buy famous brand-name mooncakes this year.
"The sales revenue of some big mooncake producers didn't shrink as much as some people estimated last year," said an unidentified employee of the Gongyifu Food Company, a renowned mooncake maker in Beijing.
She said the sales volume of the company has been at a satisfactory level for several years, including this year.
However, the CSRI survey shows that mooncakes appear to have lost some of their charm.
About 64 per cent of respondents said they will buy mooncakes this year, 24 per cent said they will not and 18 per cent were uncertain.
Nevertheless, industry insiders believe the mooncake market will not fade.
"Mooncakes are an indispensable part of the Mid-Autumn Festival going back hundreds of years. They are more than food to the Chinese and they carry rich cultural meanings," said an unidentified manager with the Beijing Daoxiangcun Food Group.
"As long as the Chinese celebrate this traditional festival, the mooncake market will not disappear."
During the festival, families usually gather together and celebrate the day, hoping for harmony and happiness, which are expressed by the mooncakes and the full moon.
This year the festival, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, falls on September 21 on the Gregorian calendar.
(China Daily September 16, 2002)