Local health administrators are going to upgrade food safety management by introducing a four-grade categorizing system at the end of the year.
Food outlets will have to enhance self-discipline after the introduction of the new system, according to Feng Liuxiang, vice-director of the Bureau of Health of South China's Guangdong Province.
Health inspectors will grade food producers and retailers according to their performance in reviews.
Their report will determine whether a licence is approved. Inspectors will conduct follow-up visits after a licence is issued.
The new system will classify the food industry in grades ranging from A to D.
Feng said the frequency of food safety inspections differed according to the grade, which was based on the principles of risk management.
An "A" grade means there is a low risk and only a simplified inspection is required.
Those with a "B" grade will receive regular inspections and "C" grade enterprises will be inspected more frequently because of the high risks associated with their food.
A "D" grade means an outlet will not be able to get a licence or its licence will be revoked.
Feng said the system would make limited food hygiene inspection resources more effective.
According to health bureau figures, there were a total of 3,630 professional hygiene inspectors responsible for checking food outlets last year and just over 4,550 people carrying out laboratory tests for the entire province.
The province has almost 308,000 food outlets that employ more than 35 million people.
A Ministry of Health official said the system had already proved its worth in other countries such as the United States and Singapore.
She said consumers would have a clear idea about the quality of food as a result of the classification system.
It would also allow outlets to improve their credibility and force retailers to adhere to the Food Safety Law.
Outlets' results are expected to be publicized by media releases.
( China Daily August 12, 2002)