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China: Around The Nation

Chinese delivery app providers prepare food beside toilets, dirty water

Investigation finds food vendors can easily buy licences and bribe inspectors to pass their sites

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 12:36pm

Restaurants that can obtain licences to sell food even if giving the address of a public toilet or car park have raised questions of the hygiene conditions food delivery application providers.

Two major food delivery apps in Guangzhou, Meituan and Ele.me (the latter translates as “Hungry now”) have loose standards in verifying the quality of their vendors, according to local newspaper the New Express.

These online platforms are just two in the booming field of online food delivery services, which recorded 176 million orders in the first quarter of 2015, up by more 340 per cent year on year, according to a report in China Daily last year.

In the New Express investigation, the newspaper successfully applied for a food licence giving the address of a public toilet, and found an existing vendor whose registered address was a car park.

The report included photos of restaurants where food was being prepared next to the toilet, and where raw food was next to dirty water.

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These vendors registered with the help of intermediary companies, the report said.

By paying 680 yuan and submitting personal identification to such companies, registration was easily available for vendors wanting to sell food through the apps. These companies would also get food licences for vendors upon further payment.

A deliveryman who asked to be identified as Quan was quoted as saying: “I sometimes tell customers not to order from the restaurants anymore when I hand them the food, because I saw how their food was made.”

Despite apps requesting site inspections before adding food vendors, the report found that a “red packet” of just 200 yuan (US$29) was enough to bribe the inspection staff to pass vendors.

In March, Ele.me conducted a check of 1 million registered vendors on its platform, and found 5,257 failed its standards.

The Guangdong Food and Drug Administration and Meituan also responded to the article, saying they would increase scrutiny of food providers, the report said.