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June 26, 2019

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Food safety crimes decline thanks to police

Shanghai police announced yesterday they have solved more than 150 food safety crimes since 2018 and caught over 360 suspects.

In one case, eight people were arrested by police in Baoshan District earlier this year and are now facing charges.

Police said they started investigation in November last year after receiving a report from a resident that there was a strong smell of alcohol from a house, and it seemed that someone was illegally producing baijiu — a strong Chinese liquor — inside.

Police said the house was rented by a man surnamed Hong along with his relatives.

They found empty bottles and packaging materials of four famous baijiu brands — Moutai, Wuliangye, Jiannanchun and Yanghe.

The suspects had bought buckets of unbranded baijiu to fill the bottles at night.

The fake baijiu was transported to a wine wholesaler based in Songjiang District who then passed it to his outlets and other retailers.

The price of the fake baijiu the wholesaler purchased from the suspects was only 30 to 50 percent of the market price of the real one.

In January, police raided the suspects in four locations in Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang Province where the packaging materials of the fake baijiu came from. During the raid, police discovered about 1,000 bottles of fake baijiu, 3,000 empty bottles and 3,000 labels.

He Junyi, head of the food, drug and environment safety crime squad of Baoshan District police, said consumers can use apps of baijiu brands such as Moutai and Wuliangye to check the authenticity of alcohol.

“The apps enables near field communication (NFC) detection of the chips embedded in the bottle caps, and if the chips are fake, the apps will inform the consumers that they’re not authorized,” he said. “The apps will also show the past NFC request records.”

He reminded that some fake baijiu manufacturers now use recycled chips in bottle caps, and consumers should be aware that a chip from an authentic bottle of baijiu usually doesn’t have previous NFC request records.

In another case, police of Yangpu District caught four suspects who allegedly produced and sold a “diet coffee” with sibutramine, a substance used in prescription medicines for treating obesity and banned in China for use in food products.

Police started their investigation in January after receiving a report that a person was selling the coffee on the Internet under the brand name of a famous local company producing biological products.

Products traced back to factories

The coffee was found to be produced in Shangqiu City in central Henan Province by a man surnamed Han and his wife and sold to a man surnamed Mao in Shanghai who was running an Internet shop.

The suspects were raided in Shanghai and Henan in March with 120,000 packs of the coffee, 165 kilograms of sibutramine powder and 9 tons of coffee powder seized, together with the production machines.

Yang Haiqing, head of the food safety crime squad of Shanghai police, said the number of food safety crime cases in Shanghai keeps dropping year by year.

“At the same time our crime-combating results are getting better because we aim to trace the problematic products back to their manufacturers in every case,” he said.

To more efficiently crack down on such crimes, police have been working closely with the administrative bodies overseeing food and drug safety issues.

In all cases since 2018, 30 percent were investigated based on initial clues shared by the market inspectors and others, and 90 percent of the cases were solved under concerted effort.

Chen Yan, vice head of the food safety coordination department of Shanghai Market Inspection Administration Bureau, said they cooperate with the police throughout a crime case.

“We share clues and also resources for investigation such as lab identification of the problematic products,” she said.

“We also make sure that those products are properly destroyed or recycled after the case is closed.”

The police said they have also signed cooperation agreements and memorandums with several Internet businesses incorporating online shopping including Alibaba, Tencent and Pinduoduo to combat such crimes.

Under the cooperation, the businesses inform the police of possible offending and enable access to its transaction data during the investigation.


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