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Shanghai Pinpoints Food Safety in Checks

Food safety will be made the "top priority" of Shanghai local government's market supervisors, Shanghai municipal government spokesperson Jiao Yang said yesterday.

The municipal government will exercise tight scrutiny over the contamination of farm products, crack down on unlicensed food producers, and push forward with a quality safety (QS) examination on 28 main categories of food, said Jiao, who unveiled the local government's market-supervision plan for this year at a press conference yesterday.

"As the Chinese saying goes, 'food is heaven for the masses,' so the government must make sure its power is correctly used (to guarantee food safety)," she said.

Food safety is now a top concern of central and local governments wary of food-related incidents that can claim lives and cause panic.

The State Council launched a special scheme to improve food regulation last April, after a milk powder scandal in Anhui Province killed 13 babies and sparked concern nationwide over food safety.

Shanghai enjoyed a record of zero major food poisoning cases last year, according to Jiao.

But small cases sometimes occur. Last month, a 19-month-old girl of a Taiwan investor in Shanghai choked to death while eating jelly.

According to Jiao, the city government is going to inter-link the information held by government offices relating to every aspect of the food industry, including licensing, quality inspection and punishment, to exert greater leverage over the food market.

Head officials in local administrations will be held accountable for problems in food safety in their jurisdiction, Jiao said

Shanghai will also foster 100 "model food markets" this year to promote new standards in food quality, she added.

The local government will take steps to make people's feeling of safety in food consumption "increase substantially," she said.

The Shanghai Municipal People's Congress, the city's lawmaking body, has also decided to give priority to food safety, especially the safety of meat in malls and supermarkets.

The decision came after recent inspections found many grocery stores and restaurants could not provide meat quarantine certificates or health certificates for chefs.

Some 200 local lawmakers will make surprise inspections in slaughter houses, quarantine offices and supermarkets, have talks with and do sample surveys among local citizens to understand problems in the implementation of food regulations and then take their results to the local government for solutions.

Generally speaking, food quality in China is improving under constant government efforts and a mandatory QS system introduced nationwide early last year.

By the end of last year, the country's food administration had licensed 25,716 domestic producers of rice, flour, edible oil, bean sauce and vinegar, extending the mandatory quality safety verification system to 95 percent of producers, according to the State Council's leading office for market order.

The office is headed by Vice-Premier Wu Yi.

(China Daily April 14, 2005)

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