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Cities Take Measures to Prevent Food Poisoning

Major Chinese cities are putting in place systems to prevent illness caused by food hazards and a lack of food safety procedures, as the peak season for food poisoning approaches, according to local health authorities.

Many cities in China usually undergo dramatic weather changes in the transitional period between spring and summer, which tends to make people more vulnerable to viruses, according to medical experts.

Additionally, some fresh fruits and vegetables contaminated by pesticides are often sold and consumed with little concern.

To cope with the problem, major regions in the country have created high profile plans to minimize possible incidents.

Shanghai Food and Drug Administration announced last week its plans to strengthen its food quality inspections, standardized processing, and its assessment of the physical condition of staff at local markets and restaurants to ensure a healthy food market.

A new food safety network coordinated among relevant municipal bureaux has also been set up, aimed at ensuring food safety from production sites to the wholesale and retail markets and restaurants.

The food safety inspectors in some districts of Shanghai will be required to work additional hours during the week-long Labour Day holiday, in order to guarantee food safety in the night markets.

The Guangzhou municipal government has also declared it will build a comprehensive system to prevent diseases resulting from food this month.

The system has a consultant team consisting of medical experts who are experienced in solving food emergencies, according to Mao Xinwu, an official with the municipal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several poisonous species of mushrooms are the main causes of many food poisoning cases in the city.

Measures to prevent residents from consuming poisonous mushrooms have been taken, including posting warning signs about the mushrooms in public places and the local media, carrying out health seminars, and delivering pamphlets.

The city's health authorities also conduct regular supervision and checks on food in supermarkets, wet markets and restaurants.

Health authorities in Jiangsu's capital city Nanjing have recently announced plans to set up a 24-hour emergency mechanism for any poisoning incidents.

The mechanism includes establishing dozens of food quality inspection stations, examining major procedures and components involved in food processing, and assigning medical care teams.

"But to promote the public's awareness of food safety is the fundamental way to solve the problem," said Huang Guirong, an official with Nanjing Municipal Health Inspection Institution.

Statistics show that food safety incidents happen more frequently in summer, according to local health authorities.

(China Daily April 24, 2006)

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