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Illegal Tofu Workshop Shut down

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Industrial and commercial authorities in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, have shut down an underground workshop producing tofu products under a fake brand name.

The tofu appeared in the markets of Central China's Hubei and Hunan provinces in recent months.

Hao Jinqi, an official with the industrial and commerce bureau of Dongxihu district, Wuhan, told China Daily that they raided the illegal workshop in the city's Zhanggongdi area after receiving a report and inspecting the premises.

"There was production equipment worth more than 300,000 yuan (US$45,000) and raw materials," Hao said.

Dean Fa Food Co Ltd in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, which produces Qianye Tofu, reported to the bureau that the company's products had undergone a serious decline in sales in Hunan and Hubei since May, while counterfeit tofu products had entered the market in Wuhan.

The packaging used on the tofu resembled that used by Dean Fa Food to such an extent that it even bore anti-counterfeit laser film labels. "The laser label printing machine is worth about 8 million yuan and the printing house must be a pretty large one," said Yang Shuaifeng, of Dean Fa Food.

The bureau sent a law enforcement team to inspect the workshop immediately after it received the report.

Officials found four workers using fake packaging on their tofu products and closed down the workshop.

The workshop is owned by a man surnamed Zhou, who confessed that he had no relation to Dean Fa Food in Suzhou and was using fake packaging that he had ordered online.

Sanitary conditions are usually not up to standard in unregistered workshops, whose products can cause gastrointestinal infections, said Pan Siyi, dean of the college of food science and technology at Huazhong Agricultural University.

There are two illegal aspects to the case of the counterfeit tofu packing, said Sang Liwei, a food safety lawyer in Beijing and a representative of the Global Food Safety Forum, a nonprofit organization.

"One is trademark infringement and the other is unsafe production," he said.

Acknowledging that food safety has become a hot topic in China, Sang said administrative supervision, with the prospect of fines, is not enough to curb unsafe food production and encouraged consumers to safeguard their rights.

(China Daily December 29, 2010)

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