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China: Around The Nation

Fast food failings: complaints against online delivery services lead to probe by Beijing authorities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 10:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 11:57pm

Three major online food delivery services – Baidu Waimai, Ele.me, and Meituan – are once again in the spotlight after Beijing food and drug supervision authorities launched an investigation into the three start-up services.

The Beijing Food and Drug Administration said it had received a total of 228 complaints against the three services, with 92 against Meituan, 77 on Ele.me and 59 on Baidu Waimai, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV.

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The administration said the three online services had allowed unlicensed restaurants to run businesses through their platforms and failed to release the restaurant information to their users, and ordered them to ban 60 such “black restaurants”, according to a Xinhua report.

The three services said they had removed the offending restaurants from their platforms.

A report by The Beijing News on Monday said more than 1,000 unsanitary black restaurants previously removed from the Ele.me platform after a CCTV expose in March had quietly staged a comeback on the three online food delivery services, with some purchasing fake licenses or using connections to bypass loose supervision on the online platforms.

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The newspaper investigation found employees of a restaurant that sells chicken and ginseng soup were preparing food in a poor sanitary environment – washing vegetables in a toilet area, with flies circling around. Some cooks grabbed food with their bare hands to taste it.

Yet the restaurant was still among those recommended on Baidu Waimai, and ranked highly on its sales chart.

In March, Ele.me, the Shanghai-based online food delivery service backed by Alibaba, Tencent and JD.com, was singled out in CCTV’s annual “3.15” investigative TV programme for allowing unqualified workers to deliver potentially unsanitary food to its customers. The platform was subsequently fined 120,000 yuan by Shanghai supervision authorities for violating food safety laws.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.