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China to bring in new standards to clean up bathhouse trade
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16:44, February 14, 2008

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China's centuries old bathhouse culture is to come under two new standards to prevent the trade falling into disrepute.

Both standards were expected to be implemented in the first half of this year, said Luo Jizhen of the China National Spa Association (CSPA).

The Ministry of Commerce is to issue new operating standards for the bath trade while the CSPA is to implement a five-tier star rating system for bathhouses.

Five-star bathhouses should have at least 20 single massage rooms and provide services such as depositories for valuables and travel bookings.

Luo said the CSPA would give a star-rating to each bathhouse that complied with the ministry standard later this year.

The operating standards would require bathhouses to display signs detailing health and hygiene procedures and rules, while cleaners should be responsible for the disinfection of facilities. Tea sets, towels, washcloths, bathrobes and slippers should be replaced or disinfected before each use.

Wardrobes should be disinfected at least twice a week, and bathing pools and other equipment should all be disinfected every day. Bath water must be replaced promptly. Tubs should be disinfected for each customer.

The standards also require operators to clearly display service items and fees, sanitation standards, business hours and safety instructions.

They cover all businesses providing showers, baths, pools and medicated baths, saunas, springs, spas and related services such as massages, pedicures and catering.

In June last year, the ministries of commerce and health issued a sanitary standard for bathhouses, but Luo said the new standards had more detailed operating requirements.

Tian Kun, a lawyer with the CSPA committee of experts, said, "False advertising and unfair competition have been creeping into the trade in the past few years."

The pursuit of profits sometimes drove operators to ignore laws and regulations, he said.

The new standards were not mandatory, but they should better regulate the industry, Tian said. The CSPA would offer operators professional training in the standards this year.

"We have no details of the new standards, but we always maintain sanitation levels in our bathrooms," said a worker at the Yihai International Chamber of Commerce, which offers bathing facilities in Beijing.

A Beijing worker with the Da Lang Tao Sha company, which runs a nationwide chain of bathhouses, declined to comment on the new standards.

China's bath culture dates back more than 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty, when bathing was required before important events like enthronements and sacrifices.

In the Han (206B.C.-220A.D.) and Tang (618-906) dynasties, steam baths, hot springs and medicated baths were popular with the upper classes. Chinese doctors began to prescribe baths for the treatment of different ailments.

For most of the 20th century, many Chinese bathed at public baths, until the development of plumbing and drainage systems brought bathrooms to most homes.

However, more than 150,000 public bathhouses, employing more than 10 million people, still exist and provide a range of social activities.

Source: Xinhua

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