Capital city takes aim at food scares

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-16 08:44

Faced with a spate of food safety incidents and declining public confidence in the official response, authorities in Beijing have come up with a color-coded system of alerts and actions for dealing with food emergencies.

In the event of an outbreak of illness caused by unsafe food, public warnings will be given in the form of a four-level "pre-caution mechanism" blue for low-level threats, yellow for elevated, orange for high and red for severe, according to a food emergency response plan that took effect on Sunday.

The plan includes detailed standards for responses. For example, if the illness has affected more than 100 people or caused more than 10 deaths, it will be categorized as a high-level threat. If it also threatens other provinces, or involves Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or foreign countries, it will automatically be considered a severe threat.

At each threat level, the local government is to implement a corresponding set of measures, including the establishment of special teams to handle medical treatment, assessments, investigations, logistics and the flow of information. Unsafe food products are to be confiscated, banned or recalled.

Filing reports

The plan, issued by the city's emergency management and food safety offices, encourages individuals and organizations to report unsafe foods and bans any delays or cover-ups.

The food safety office said the new rules would improve the city's ability to respond to food-related emergencies, which have been increasingly frequent in recent months. The plan is also expected to increase public confidence in the authorities' response capabilities.

In November, Beijing pulled duck eggs that had been contaminated with the industrial dye Sudan Red off of supermarket shelves, and halted sales of turbot, after the fish was found to have been contaminated with chemicals.

In addition, 87 people fell ill last summer after eating raw or half-cooked snails that had been contaminated with parasites at a Beijing restaurant.

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