China put into effect a set of reference standards for the production of steamed bread made of wheat flour on Tuesday.
China Standardization Administration and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued the standards on the Chinese staple known as mantou to improve food safety production, said an official with the Standardization Administration surnamed Shi.
"They are merely recommended criteria for making mantou and do not have any legal obligations," he said.
The criteria described the proportion of water and wheat flour for a standard mantou and roughly its size and weight. It also set a limit for water content because those containing too much water go off more easily.
"We found some of the stories online misinterpreted the criteria by saying that all the mantou should be in a round or oval shape. They were taking the criteria as if they will rule out the production of mantou by peddlers and small companies," said an official with the State Grain Administration, who declined to give his name. The administration helped draft the criteria.
"Individuals and small companies can still make and sell steamed bread as long as their products accord with relevant hygienic standards issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce," the official said.
Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, said specific measures about how to apply the mantou standards needed to be made to help those standards make sense. Otherwise, they would become useless references.
A peddler selling mantou at a market in Shenyang, capital of the northeast Liaoning Province, said: "I do not think it is necessary to set such criteria. Everyone has different tastes for mantou. We should provide mantou with different sizes and flavors to them."
But for a man surnamed Li, a director of the technology department of a big Shenyang food company, it was good to have such criteria, he said.
He believed the state standards for mantou would help big companies with standardized production methods to expand their market, while reducing the market share for small manufacturers.
(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2008)