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'Smileys' to Label Restaurants
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Consumers will soon have access to instant quality control information as they sidle up to the door of public dining places in Chinese cities -- a smiling face on the door means the country's health watchdog is happy about the quality of that particular restaurant.

Beginning Friday, China's Ministry of Health will carry out the program on a trial basis in the Haidian District of Beijing and nine other cities -- Tianjin, Taizhou and Jiangyan in Jiangsu, Hangzhou in Zhejiang, Luoyang in Henan, Wuhan in Hubei, Haikou and Sanya in Hainan, and Chengdu in Sichuan.

"The program is expected to cover the whole country in about a year," Li Tairan, an official with the ministry's sanitation law enforcement and monitoring bureau said on Friday.

The labeling will be based on nine criteria -- hygiene license, management system, managerial personnel, staff health certificates, food quality and labels, food processing, processing areas, cleaning and disinfection of tableware, invoices of main materials.

Restaurants that pass all nine items will be entitled to a "smiling face," those that fail one or two items will get an "expressionless face," and "grim faces" will be doled out to the rest, according to Li.

The color and pattern of the face symbols will be determined by the health ministry, and they should be put up in a conspicuous place such as the doorway or vestibule, Li said.

The name of the monitoring authority will be posted up along with the symbol.

The ministry will post the monitoring results on official websites in the future for customers' benefit, Li said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2007)

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