Shanghai mobilises food safety procedures

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Food

Safety bodies in Shanghai hope to hit back at growing international
concern over Chinese food safety practices with its new food
testing system, say media reports in the country.

China's growing presence within global trade has seen increasing scrutiny over its products, both at home and abroad. Recent scares over contaminated pet foods have raised industry and consumer concern over the quality of certain consumables. To combat this, a new initiative in Shanghai will establish a rapid response food testing system to step up the tracking of harmful food and beverage products. "The system can tell the safety of most food products within 30 minutes,"​ said Li Jie, deputy director of the Shanghai Food and drugs supervision institute in an interview with the Xinhua news agency. Each of the city's districts will be equipped with safety testing vehicles and personnel to carry out the monitoring. These latest measures represent an increasing focus in the country on greater vigilance over food safety in the industry, which has been rocked over the last year by a number of incidents, both domestically and in exports. Growing concerns over outbreaks such as these appear to have pushed the government to respond. Last month, authorities in the country reportedly began reviewing food recall procedures in a bid to prevent contaminated products from entering the market, while also minimising their effect on consumers. The announcement could go some way in allaying fears that, with no official national body to enact food recalls, companies may not be supplying the relevant information needed to track dangerous products. Any new food safety measures are therefore likely to be welcomed by consumers in the country. Last year, a poll of 868 people in the southern province of Guangzhou found that 80 per cent of those questioned were worried about the safety of the food they purchased. The survey by the Guangzhou public opinion research centre during November found that more than 62 per cent of people believed government agencies could work together and increase the frequency of food inspection. They also wanted the penalty for breaking regulations to be increased. Food producers found guilty of selling poor quality or unsafe products face fines of up to CNY30,000 (€2,850) but this merely equals the cost of regular food testing. China saw a number of high profile food safety scares in 2006 alone, including the discovery of the potentially carcinogenic colorant, Sudan Red, in duck eggs. Some 1,159kg of eggs produced in Hebei Province near Beijing were pulled from supermarket shelves in the capital after tests showed that the red colour of the yolks - thought by consumers to be a sign of higher quality - were caused by the dye, likely added to chicken feed. The food safety problems have also highlighted the gap between rural and urban areas of China, both in terms of enforcement and awareness. The State Food and Drug Administration has so far only established its presence at the provincial level and in selected cities.

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, China, East Asia

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