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Cakes Get Clean Bill of Health
Lovers and givers of mooncakes, the Mid Autumn Festival specialty, can eat and treat with confidence.

That was the message as the government said all the filled round pastries tested in a nationwide survey met hygiene standards.

Last year, consumers and producers were shaken by a television station's revelation that a big Nanjing bakery was adding previous years' fillings to its sweetened bean, nut and seed pastes for the 2001 holiday. An executive of the company not only admitted the recycling but called it common.

This year, spotchecks for bacteria - possible signs of old fillings as well as poor factory conditions - found no problems.

The cakes of 76 companies in 22 provinces and municipalities all made the grade, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said over the weekend.

The 100 percent approval rate was 4 points higher than last year - when, admittedly, public revulsion was not based on statistics.

Twenty brands won the administration's special accolade of being named "trustworthy," including Shanghai's Xinghualou, Xinqiao, Li'nanju, Xinya and Shengzi.

But the agency urged consumers to be wary of mooncakes sold in bulk, apparently on the grounds that ones lacking elaborate and expensive gift boxes are more likely to come from unhygienic, unlicensed sources.

Last week, inspectors for Shanghai's Fengxian District closed down an underground operation in Guangang village whose four employees lacked health certificates.

"Mooncakes were put randomly on the ground, and flies were kissing them," said Jiang Yinghong, a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau. The factory head said more than 1,000 cakes had been sold to groceries.

Even if they win back trust, legitimate makers face fashion and weather challenges.

The Mid Autumn Festival - calculated to coincide with the year's brightest full moon, or harvest moon - falls on September 21 this year. But hotter-than-normal weather has given people little time to switch from thinking of summer refreshments to autumn treats.

Nor is a calorie-packed dessert heavy in sugar and fat an obvious part of the trend toward healthier eating.

(Eastday.com September 9, 2002)

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