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March 19, 2014

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Ready meals given 36-hour limit

READY-TO-EAT, prepacked cold food products carried by convenience stores must be sold within 36 hours of production, under a new food safety law that takes effect in Shanghai on April 1.

The city’s first standard on prepacked food under cold storage will apply to such products as lunch boxes, sandwiches and sushi.

Anyone found guilty of breaking the new rule will face a fine of up to 10 times the retail price of the out-of-date goods sold, Gu Zhenhua, deputy director of the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, said yesterday.

If a manufacturer wants a longer shelf life for a product it must provide independent test evidence to support its claim and apply to their local food safety watchdog for approval, he said.

“The regulation is designed to improve food safety while taking into account the needs of producers and sellers,” Gu said.

“Most prepacked cold food is sold by convenience store chains, which have computerized stock management systems. That means it will be easy for both the government and the companies involved to monitor sales and ensure compliance with the new rule,” he said.

The authorities will conduct regular and widespread checks on food sellers after the standard takes effect, he said.

Workers at convenience stores in the city told Shanghai Daily yesterday they had not been told about the new standard. However, most said they already have a strict system for the sale and destruction of pre-packed cold food, which generally has a shelf life of 24 hours.

“All of our unsold prepacked cold foods have to be destroyed in front of a witness,” the manager of a Quick convenience store on Shaanxi Road said.

Similarly, the manager of a Kedi store on Maoming Road said that all prepacked food left unsold at the end of the day is recorded in a ledger and then destroyed in front of two witnesses.

“Ready-to-eat foods are very lucrative, and the profits we make from their sale more than compensates us for the losses from the items we have to throw away each day,” he said.

According to official figures, more than 300,000 ready-to-eat food items are sold in Shanghai every day.


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