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Caterers Notch up 40,000 Hygiene, License Violations

Health officials uncovered more than 40,000 violations of hygiene and license regulations in China's catering sector from January to October, according to the Ministry of Health.

"Health departments at all levels inspected more than 920,000 catering units and fined violators 23 million yuan (US$3 million)," the ministry reported in a teleconference on catering safety on Friday.

Last year, health departments uncovered more than 110,000 violations, revoking 1,444 food hygiene licenses and cracking down on almost 30,000 unlicensed businesses, according to ministry statistics.

"The number of food poisoning cases and the incidence of infectious diseases of the intestinal tract had declined compared with the same period of last year," it said.

Only 73 percent of the country's restaurants and other catering units routinely checked suppliers' hygiene certificates when buying raw materials, it said.

Ninety-five percent of China's catering establishments would have a certified hygiene grade in accordance with their basic hygiene facilities by the end of the year as part of a nationwide effort to improve food safety, said Vice Health Minister Chen Xiaohong last month.

Health departments would strengthen supervision of restaurants with low grades and advise the public against eating in such restaurants, Chen said.

The ministry launched a nationwide campaign on food safety in the catering sector in September to run till the end of the year, in order to regulate catering business and reduce the number of food poisoning accidents and illnesses.

The inspection targets school dining halls, canteens at construction sites, small restaurants and those situated in rural areas or city suburbs.

Those that are found to have purchased or used substandard food products would be subject to severe penalties, the ministry warned.

(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2007)

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