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April 30, 2011

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Eatery hygiene figures poor

BARELY a fifth of Shanghai restaurants visited by inspectors are providing a good level of hygiene, the local food watchdog said yesterday.

There are around 60,000 licensed restaurants in Shanghai, and more than 42,000 have so far been included in the Food and Drug Administration check system.

Figures from last year's inspection reveal that only 21.3 percent of restaurants were awarded a poster with a green "smiley face," denoting that they provide a sanitary dining environment and good service.

Some 67.8 percent of restaurants received a poster showing a yellow face with a neutral expression indicating that they were "so so," just achieving FDA hygiene requirements.

The remaining 10.9 percent of eateries were given a poster showing a red "sad face," showing that they failed to meet FDA requirements.

Local authorities started the scheme in 2009 to announce results of random spot checks. Posters with the results are displayed in prominent places inside an eatery.

Yet some members of the public seem unclear about what the results are highlighting.

"In the Xujiahui area there are many restaurants with posters of plain or sad faces," said one young office worker.

"But few people seem to care as we don't understand exactly what risks they stand for."

"In any case, the restaurants are still allowed to open and enjoy good business, so we also eat there," added the office worker.

A food safety expert yesterday said simply announcing the results is "meaningless" and that checks must be backed by tough action.

"Restaurants that receive the 'so so' rating should be made to suspend services until they improve," said Zhu Shanzhu, a local doctor and member of the city's political advisory body.

"And those receiving the sad face posters should be closed without hesitation, otherwise the practice is meaningless," added Zhu, during a session with FDA officials.

The FDA said it would consider the suggestion and is also working to include more eateries in the inspection.

In other initiatives, a six-month check on the illegal use of food additives and kitchen waste oil is being launched. Penalties include having business licenses removed and profits confiscated. A study to develop an instant checking method for kitchen waste oil is also being conducted.

The FDA offers rewards for tip offs of illegal practices at eateries. The hotline number is 962727.


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