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China Launches Nationwide Food Safety Campaign
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As public anxiety over food and product quality continues, China's health authorities announced on Wednesday a new nationwide food safety campaign in the catering sector.

According to an action plan drawn up by the State Council, the inspection program will last from September to the end of this year, Health Minister Chen Zhu said at a press conference held by the Information Office of the State Council.

The inspection will target school dining halls, construction site canteens, small restaurants, and dining facilities situated in rural areas and city suburbs.

Those found to have purchased or used substandard food products would be subject to severe punishments, according to the Health Ministry.

Excessive use of food additives and the use of "non-foodstuff" materials in food will also be strictly forbidden and punished, the ministry said.

The ministry said it hoped the four-month campaign would further regulate the business operations of the country's catering companies and greatly reduce food poisoning accidents and diseases originating from poor quality food.

Incidents of mass food poisoning continue to occur in China. In August, 74 teenagers fell sick after eating at a boarding school in north China's Shanxi Province.

Local health bureau and quarantine authorities closed the school's dining hall in Xinjiang County. The students, who were diagnosed as suffering from bacterial food poisoning, all recovered the next day after medical treatment.

Earlier media reports said that from March to May this year, China's health authorities inspected 146,465 restaurants and school canteens, of which 964 had their food hygiene licenses revoked and 8,352 were punished.

Chen said the ministry had set up a monitoring network on food contamination and diseases originating from poor quality food and is considering publicizing the sanitation record of catering businesses to further improve food safety.

The Chinese government began a four-month nationwide campaign late last month to improve the quality of goods and food safety.

The campaign will target farm produce, processed food, the catering sector, drugs, pork, imported and exported goods, and products closely linked to human safety and health.

(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2007)

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