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New testing to increase food safety

An SFDA employee uses the “instant testing system.”

An SFDA employee uses the “instant testing system.”

Shanghai’s food and drug watchdog is testing a system that it says can detect the presence of illegal food additives.

The so-called “instant testing system” is being used in a pilot program aimed at bolstering the efficiency of food-safety inspectors, according to authorities. Among other toxic substances, officials claim the system can identify Clenbutoral, also known as “lean meat powder,” a banned animal feed additive that can cause nausea and dizziness.

As part of the pilot program, local food safety officials are offering to test the food of local residents free of charge.

Data produced by these tests is directly transferred to a central monitoring system. The system has already been tested at dozens of local food producers, restaurants and markets, said Peng Shaojie, an official with the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.

Authorities hopes that the monitoring system will help them set up a more efficient supervision as it allows for a larger amount of data to be processed in a more timely manner compared to previous testing methods, he said.

The testing results also include adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and humiture, a combined measurement of temperature and humidity, are also sent to the platform.

The administration is also conducting experiments on shortening the testing time of “fake meat” to 12 hours, down from several days. The new tests are still subject to trial, but are expected to be implemented next year, he said.

The testing time of banned substances, such as malachite green dye, a synthetic dye found in fish, will also be shortened thanks to new research conducted by the administration, according to Peng.

Food scandals have shocked consumers in the past, most notably when six babies died from tainted baby formula in 2008. In Shanghai and its surrounding area, 16,000 diseased pig carcasses were found floating down the Huangpu and its tributaries in 2013.

Smaller scandals are also common, for instance restaurants which have labeled a mix of duck meat and sheep fat as mutton.

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