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December 8, 2011

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Street food law in flux

THE city's food-safety watchdog is soliciting public opinions to improve a local law that aims to tighten inspection and daily management of street-side food stalls.

The regulation means that many of the unlicensed mobile eateries, many of which do a thriving business on street corners, will be offered legal access into the market but be put under tightened inspection.

In many parts of the city, small food trolleys and stalls offering snacks, fried rice and other Chinese dishes cooked on the scene spring up in morning rush hours or in late hours of the day. City legislators said in a recent meeting that they understood that there is substantial demand in places where such unlicensed food businesses do well, such as from morning commuters wanting to grab a breakfast or residents who don't have enough licensed restaurants in their neighborhoods.

Tightening up inspection rather than completely banning such food stalls would thus be a better way to cope with the food-safety concern, legislators said.

The current law requires street food vendors to provide legal health and identification documents to prove they're qualified to operate their business. The vendors must also keep records of where they get their ingredients.

Meanwhile, district governments should designate certain areas as temporary business zones for the vendors, the law says. It also says that vendors have no right to ask for government compensation if the temporary zones are later closed for public safety purposes.

It also bans certain foods such as salads, freshly squeezed juices and milk-based foods prepared on the scene from being sold by street vendors because being outdoors exposes such foods to higher risk of going bad.

Vendors who are caught using forged documents or bribery to gain temporary business passes are to be fined and have their businesses shut down, the regulation says.


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