Food safety inspectors shutter hundreds of firms

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FOOD safety watchdogs have shut down almost 30 companies in the past month, with another 197 set to be closed as part of a major crackdown.

The Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau said the tough inspections have shaken the industry, and warned all food manufacturers to adhere to the law or face the consequences.

"We expect unqualified companies will be weeded out as they won't be able to cope with frequent inspections," said Shen Weimin, deputy director of the bureau.

Shen said regular campaigns will not only bring inspectors to companies but also to the bureau's own district branches to ensure they are doing their job properly.

Meanwhile, Shanghai has set up a food safety committee to bridge management gaps that exist between three agencies overseeing food safety, with Mayor Han Zheng pledging to make the city synonymous with safe food.

The committee will organize management of major issues and coordinate the different watchdogs - the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce and Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau. Shen Xiaoming, vice mayor, heads the committee.

One measure will see sell-by dates highlighted at local stores. Supermarkets will be required to put up eye-catching notices to tell customers when items of food are near their sell-by dates.

Stores will be unable to return food that is past its sell-by date to suppliers - previously a common practice to decrease losses.

In another initiative, food safety will become one item of the performance assessment for government officials.

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