Public health and sanitation authorities in south China's Guangdong Province have begun large-scale, daily examinations of the food market, especially cooked food, in local cities and towns.
The move represents a major step towards guaranteeing high hygiene standards of food on New Year's Day and the traditional Spring Festival, which falls on February 12.
According to examination results released Wednesday by the municipal public health department of Guangzhou, the quality of most cooked food and meat on the market remains basically satisfactory.
"Only 15 kilograms of salted fish were found not up to standard when we conducted random examinations in Guangzhou's free markets and supermarkets," said Fu Yiguang, director of the sanitary law and supervision department of the Guangzhou Public Health Bureau.
Some sellers in the city of Shanwei reportedly add pesticide to salted fish to keep them looking fresh, according to officials from the provincial department of industry and commerce, who did not give details.
Fu said the examination this year is focused on small stalls, cooked food shops and family factories, where problems usually occur.
"Marinated meat and fish is a necessity for many families in Guangdong, so it has been a main target for our examinations during the past three years," Fu said.
Sellers of bulk cooked meat on the market are still not required to show identification issued by the sanitation and anti-epidemic department before peddling it.
"But we will tighten law enforcement and call for further legislation," Fu said.
Last week, a producer of improperly cooked food in Dongguan who sold food to the Wal-Mart supermarket was closed down by the local departments of police, health and industry and commerce.
The small factory managed to provide cooked beef, bean jelly and pork for the world's largest supermarket retailer even though it lacked a business licence and sanitation approval.
Wal-Mart China vowed on Tuesday it would stop selling the products from that factory and re-examine the licences of all cooked food providers for its stores.
(China Daily December 20, 2001)