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Food safety tip-offs are paying off

RESTAURANTS operating under poor and unhygienic conditions have long been a concern for residents, but calling the 12331 hotline is not just a way to vent their anger, but a great tool for the government to find the worst offenders.

Last year, local authorities received over 83,400 complaints and tip-offs. Almost 63,000 were directly handled by 12331 run by city- and district-based food safety authorities. All cases were received in time response, Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said, and foreigners are welcome to dial the bilingual hotline to air their complaints as well as local residents.

The major complaints centered around restaurants with poor overall hygiene or staff without health certificates and eateries operating without a proper license. Common complaints also involved quality of food and ingredients, including the use of meat products that had gone bad or poor quality grain and grain products. Complaints on food quality were particularly common when it came to baked goods, beverages and water. Though the majority of hotline callers are Chinese, some foreigners also contacted the number to protect their rights.

Shanghai FDA officials said some foreigners called to complain about smoking in restaurants or poor hygiene in certain eateries. They also reported unlicensed food stalls they deemed annoying due to their impact on the neighborhood.

Officials said they welcome more foreigners to call the hotline for help, consultation, complaint and report on food-related issues.

To encourage whistleblowers, Shanghai FDA has risen the maximum reward for a useful tip to a maximum from 200,000 yuan (US$30,800) to a maximum of 300,000 yuan, depending on the scale of the illegal operation or the profits made from violating food safety standards. The minimum reward for an information that leads to the discovery of a violation is 200 yuan. Last year, 995 whistleblowers received a total of 843,000 yuan, up 13 percent from 2014.

Reports on violations like the use of out-of-date raw materials, the illegal processing of kitchen waste and false best-before dates are all welcomed.

Information can be provide using one’s real name, a false name or anonymously.

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