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Big strides at forefront of food safety

SHANGHAI consumes 23 million tons of food every year. Seventy percent of that is sourced from other provinces. Both the large amount and the sourcing of residents' food are a risk for food safety, the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said.

In order to reduce risks, Shanghai started to work on a monitoring system since 2005.

Since then, the spots being monitored, ranging from supermarkets to wet markets and eateries, have increased from 60 to 500. Food types that undergo regular risk monitoring also rose to 24 types.

Products considered to have higher risks of being unsafe, including rice, flour, edible oil, vegetables, eggs, livestock and poultry meat and dairy products undergo checks every month. The result is regularly released by Shanghai FDA through its website and public media.

Contaminators being tested for also keep expanding, from 72 in 2005 to 427 today. Contaminators like pesticide residue and illegal chemicals in health tonics are being tested for since 2011.

So far, the city’s monitoring system has covered the entire process of farming, production, circulation and restaurants and more than 90 percent of the main supply chain is being monitoring for early and in-time detection of risks, officials said.

For instance, aquatic shellfish is very popular among local residents, but toxins in shellfish can pose a hidden risk to people’s health and can cause acute food poisoning. For those who are allergic, it can even result in death.

Shanghai FDA officials teamed up with environmental protection, oceanology, biology and health experts to set up a shellfish toxin monitoring and alerting system through regular inspection, research and education of the public.

Since bacteria-caused food poisoning is closely related with temperature and humidity, Shanghai FDA started to cooperate with Shanghai Meteorological Bureau to establish an alert system to warn people if there is a medium or high risk of food poisoning under the current weather condition. Alerts are issued through short messages, websites and public media to local food producers and sellers, monitoring departments and consumers.

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