Guangzhou puts food safety online

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 April, 2007, 12:00am

Guangzhou is planning to set up a centre to monitor food safety in markets after struggling with a succession of food-security problems over the past few years.

Vice-mayor Wang Xiaoling said on Thursday the centre would supervise the whole food chain, from production to distribution to consumption.

Some 200 farmers' markets in the city are expected to be covered by the system, along with supermarkets like ParknShop and Carrefour, which is expected to be operational by the end of this year at the earliest. The results obtained by the centre will be posted on a website and an alert will sound if unsafe products are uncovered.

'We hope consumers can check online for the situation for different kinds of food or the producers' quality, just like they can check the weather forecast everyday,' Ms Wang said.

Guangzhou has already set up inspection facilities in several farmers' markets to check meat quality and pesticides' residue levels, but testing was left to individual markets which had to hire staff for the job.

'Now we do not know whether they use [the facilities] or not. The new system will tell us whether they are testing or not,' said Chen Yingna, a spokeswoman for the Guangzhou Food Safety Office. 'The real-time online monitoring will lower our supervision costs.'

The inspection results will be sent back to the centre immediately for analysis and released to the public.

Guangdong food safety officials applauded the idea of the centre.

'Strict supervision is a good way to direct businesspeople [to produce safe food],' said Zhang Binggui, a researcher at the food safety section of the Guangdong Food and Drug Administration.

The huge number of small agricultural producers has been a headache for the mainland's food-safety monitors. Mr Zhang said the new technology might be a good aid for governments in the future.