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Food Poisoning A Public Concern

As an increasing number of food poisoning cases occur nationwide, public concern over food safety has again been aroused this summer.

It has not been difficult for an Internet surfer to find more than 10 reported cases of food poisoning involving over a dozen people - sometimes even a hundred - on major domestic news websites over the past two weeks.

In Beijing alone, 32 food poisoning cases have made 693 people ill. But luckily and thanks to prompt and effective medical treatment, the lives of the victims have been spared.

Food poisoning always stands out as one of the major causes of accidental mass illness in China each year. In the first six months of this year, the scourge claimed 89 lives and affected about 3,600 other people nationwide.

In summer when heat and humidity cause food to go off more easily, food poisoning attacks residents with increasing frequency.

Investigations into past poisoning cases have found that a big proportion of the incidents happened due to substandard hygiene in restaurants and canteens at work units, and even before the food is supplied to these sites.

Once the food served in these places is contaminated, it will affect a large number of people.

Hence, authorities responsible for food safety should set stricter hygiene standards for such places and their suppliers and inspect food more regularly, meting out harsher punishment to offenders so the potential for mass food poisoning can be avoided to a greater extent.

On the other hand, ignorance of the harm that can be caused by food that has gone off and bad dietary habits can also create food safety hazards.

In July, Central China's Henan Province alone saw six cases of wild mushroom poisoning, which affected over 30 people. In other cases elsewhere, hundreds of people fell ill after eating wild plants or wild aquatic products that were toxic.

It seems that while the spread of scientific knowledge on food safety should be strengthened, the general public should leave exotic species alone.

It would be useful for all to remember the old Chinese saying that illness often finds its way in through the mouth.

(China Daily August 13, 2003)

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