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Food safety standard set to be on menu next year

By Shan Juan  (China Daily)

09:24, October 03, 2012

A catering standard will be introduced in June, the first of its kind, to ensure consumer health, according to the Beijing Health Inspection Institute.

The standard will cover restaurants, bakeries, shops selling snacks, drinks and desserts, canteens, and work-place kitchens across the country.

Food hygiene will be under the spotlight, especially bacteria contamination, experts said.

"It is being prepared now and will better prevent and control food-borne diseases related to catering," an official with the institute told the Beijing News.

Once implemented it will boost supervision over the catering sector, he added.

Seafood products such as salmon sashimi, for instance, will have clearly defined microbe limits.

"It's hard to define responsibility for food safety incidents at restaurants as we have no quantitative limits," he explained.

Yan Weixing, secretary-general of the safety committee under the China Food Safety Risk Assessment Center welcomed the measure.

Often the only time we would know that something was amiss was when a customer fell ill, Yan said. This measure will help trace the food chain and see who was responsible for any incidents.

Yan stressed that tackling contamination, improper storage and additives, were the prime objectives.

"Contamination is a major cause of food poisoning," Yan noted, citing surveillance results from the national food safety monitoring system, which was launched in 2010 and now has more than 300 sites on the mainland.

Supervision over the catering service sector was intensified in June, according to the country's top food and drug safety watchdog.

Restaurant inspections were increased and more information was released to the public.

Several food safety incidents occurred in 2011, including restaurants serving food cooked with "gutter oil". As the name implies, this is discarded cooking oil.

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