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June 9, 2011

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Food safety report says major problems remain

About 5 percent of food products in Shanghai's markets and restaurants fail to meet quality standards due to inadequate supervision, according to a food safety report released yesterday.

Last month, city legislators conducted random inspections at supermarkets, food stores, eateries and food manufacturers in a bid to identify food safety risks. A total of 135 kinds of food were tested.

The major problems found were in the illegal treatment of expired food and restaurant leftovers.

Some manufacturers were found to be changing production dates so products could stay on shelves longer. And the problem of swill oil remained, the checks found.

Lawmaker Zhang Ling said yesterday that some eateries, especially small and medium-sized ones, simply dumped leftovers and waste oil due to expensive recycling fees.

The report said some restaurants would give the leftovers and waste oil to unlicensed businesses and processors of swill oil - cooking oil scooped out of eateries' drains - especially the small eateries that had no waste recycling system in place.

Restaurants pay around 21,600 yuan (US$3,335) a year to have their waste properly disposed of.

Illegal businesses, however, would sell their leftovers to pig farms in rural regions and other cities despite the fact it is illegal to feed pigs leftovers.

Some of the city's wet markets were found selling unqualified edible oil, having no producer information, production date or certificates.

Qu Jun, an official with the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress, said the inspections had found that many food markets and stores did not destroy expired food and kept poor records about expired products.

A Kedi store on Wusheng Road was found to have a pack of soybean milk which should have been removed from sale in April still on the shelf.

Expired food was often found together with unexpired products in Kedi and Alldays stores, while Auchan Supermarket's Zhongyuan store and the Pujing store of Lotus Supermarket were unable to show video evidence of destroying expired food, as they are required to do.

Inspectors also found three out of 11 workers at a workshop of the Shanghai Heisenlin Food Co did not have a health certificate, and food additives were not labeled.

The report showed that just 85 percent of dairy-related products met standards, with some companies found to be falsifying production temperatures and production dates and selling expired products.

Street drink stalls mainly offering milk tea and online stores selling hand-made food could have food safety problems as there was no clear supervision system, the report said.

Though more than 96 percent of the city's vegetables were qualified, legislator Yang Quanxin proposed that testing be expanded to include plant growth regulators.

However, Yin Ou, vice director of the Shanghai Agriculture Commission, said: "We so far have no plans or have no proper way to do the tests, plus it's safe."


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