Beijing health supervisory authorities will introduce a selective investigation system among catering companies in a bid to cut down on the increasing number of poisoning scares in the industry.
The system, which will classify catering companies into four grades from A to D based on their cleanliness and hygienic practices, will first used with hotels and restaurants. The programme will begin early next year, and will be extended to cover the entire food industry by 2006, according to the city's health bureau.
Food companies with good hygiene conditions and at low risk of food contamination and poisoning will get A-grade certification, while those classified as D will be ordered to suspend operation and clean up their facilities within a fixed period of time, or face permanent shut-down.
"Clients will be able to check the hygiene rating of restaurants or hotels because the grade certification will be prominently displayed,'' said Tian Jianxin, an official with the health bureau.
Beijing has reported 42 cases of food poisoning this year, involving 751 people, one of whom died from eating contaminated wild herbs.
More than 85 per cent of these cases were caused by unhygienic practices in food processing, said Deng Ying, another official with the bureau.
Deng said the introduction of the selective control system may help supervisors focus on companies whose hygiene conditions are unsatisfactory and provide such companies with clear standards to follow.
Another hygiene management system -- the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which has been applied to 57 food suppliers who provide meals to students -- will also be extended to some other sectors including dairy producers, and meat and vinegar companies, according to Deng.
HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards, through raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished food.
Deng said his health bureau would hold training classes for food company managers to introduce HACCP principles and their implementation.
(People's Daily November 10, 2003)