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Food Problems Hard to Swallow
"Why are we residents bothered by fake and inferior rice, meat, oil and salted fish? Are you government departments qualified for your job of supervision and management?"

These are the questions raised by Wang Zehua, deputy to the provincial people's congress of south China's Guangdong Province at the ongoing annual conference of the people's congress.

Officials with the provincial departments of health, quality supervision and industry and commerce jointly responded to Wang's inquiries Tuesday.

"We are really happy to witness inferior food producers being chased after like a rat running across the street by government," said Wen Weiqun, director of the supervision department with the provincial health department.

"A large-scale examination of the food market before the Spring Festival kicked off today and will last for one week throughout the province," said Xin Guanghui, director of the economic examination department with the provincial industry and commerce department.

Xin vowed to take every law-breaking peddler to the judicial body. "Forty illegal producers and sellers of inferior goods were sentenced to imprisonment last year in Guangdong," he said.

"Concerning everyday life, food topped our list of supervision and management," said Lai Tiansheng, vice-director of the provincial quality and technical supervision bureau.

According to the bureau's inspection last year, nearly 78 percent of the examined rice, oil, vinegar and sauce were found to be up to standard.

Most of the unqualified foods are produced by small workshops lacking a business license, according to Lai.

"We are tightening the market access of the food industry and adopting compulsory examinations this year," Lai said.

Lai also required those producers to recall their unqualified products when they are discovered by his bureau.

Wen said they will focus on the urban areas bordering countryside and rural areas, where most of the food quality problems occur.

More supermarkets will replace the present free markets to ensure food quality, according to Wen. The officials vowed to further strengthen the co-operation between the three authorities to guarantee food security.

Fake and inferior goods worth 358 million yuan (US$43 million) were confiscated last year in Guangdong, according to sources from the bureau of industry and commerce.

(China Daily January 30, 2002)

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