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Food safety among Beijingers' top concerns

By  He Dan (China Daily)

08:48, January 13, 2012

BEIJING - Food safety ranked among the top 10 topics capital residents are concerned about and one of the topics most discussed by local political advisers, an online poll found.

According to a poll on the official website of the ongoing plenary meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Beijing Committee, food safety ranked seventh among the 15 hot topic that netizens chose.

Political advisers urged the municipal government to increase rewards for people who report food safety violation, and the recommended other measures to encourage the public to help prevent tainted food from ever reaching people's dining tables.

"The government should rely on customers to discover and report any food safety breaches, which cost less than a surprise inspection from the food safety watchdog," said Li Rong, a delegate to CPPCC Beijing Committee and expert from the Office for Public Health Management under the Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

Given the prevalence of small-scale farming and food producers in China, the government's current monitoring of food safety is too limited, she explained.

Li cited the official statistics estimating China is home to more than 200 million farmers that produce raw agricultural products. Moreover, roughly 90 percent of the 400,000 food-processing companies in China are small or medium-sized.

It is essential to encourage public supervision of food producers and establish a reward system, Li said.

Li Lite, a professor specialized in nutrition and food science at China Agricultural University, stressed in his proposal that the food safety problem is not unique to Chinese cities. It is a problem all nations deal with, Li Lite said.

The problem is not worse compared with the past, but it has become more pressing lately because the public has greater awareness of health and food-borne illness thanks to economic growth and improvements to overall quality of life, Li Lite said.

He suggested that the government should improve food safety education to teach the public to protect themselves.

Beijing should speed up the establishment of a food-tracking mechanism to ensure the food supply chain can be monitored, said Gu Jiuru, another delegate, who is also the executive chef from Beijing's Quanjude, a chain of restaurants famous for roast duck.

"All ducks that our restaurants sell have an ID," Gu said, adding that his company sells about 9 million ducks annually.

"People eat for their health, so even if our duck prices are relatively higher as a result of our management cost, many customers are willing to pay to eat in our restaurants," he said.

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