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FDA focuses on problem foods

SHANGHAI'S food quality authority found more unsafe products last year than the year before after it increased its focus on problem areas and used more advanced equipment to test for contamination, officials said yesterday.

The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration checked 55,926 food items in 2008 and found 86.5 percent to be safe for consumption, almost 5 percent lower than the previous year.

Nearly 100 percent of the fruit, milk and dairy products, vegetable oil, alcohol, eggs and egg products and flour inspected were qualified. Cooked food, food containers, soy bean products, cakes, bread and bottled water were the biggest offenders for microorganism contamination. The quality rate for that sector - which was the FDA's 2008 target group for stepped-up inspection - ranged from 72 percent for pickles to 85.3 percent for preserved pork.

"The drop-off in the quality rate doesn't mean food sold in local markets was worse overall, but it did show the effects of putting more focus on checking food types suspected of greater quality problems and our improved ability as a result of better equipment and better staff qualifications," FDA official Du Bing said.

The improved hardware included the use of more mobile test devices.

Officials said they will continue to employ the same enforcement tactics this year. Food found to have poor quality will receive repeated checks, while items with good performance will be checked less.

Offenders jailed

Offenders face fines, license revocation, media exposure and even prosecution.

Last year four persons were sentenced to prison terms for producing or selling harmful food products.

In one of the worst cases in 2008, six suspects were put under investigation for attempting to sell pork containing an additive that produces more lean meat but is harmful to humans. Some 5,000 kilograms of poisonous pork was discovered before it was put on the market.

The FDA also said the city reported 17 mass food poisoning cases last year, in which 467 persons were sickened. The number of cases was 31 percent higher than the previous year, and illnesses rose by 43.25 percent. Both figures, however, were lower than the historical average.

To control food poisoning, the FDA is cooperating with the Shanghai weather bureau to develop a new service to inform locals about food poisoning risks based on temperature and humidity.


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