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41,000 Restaurants Closed Since September

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said Monday it had shut down more than 41,200 restaurants operating without permits and revoked some 2,000 hygiene licenses since September in connection with its efforts to ensure food safety.

About 79,000 restaurants were found to have broken hygiene laws during the three-month inspection campaign, which involved more than 1.9 million restaurants, the MOH said. Of that number, 26,433 restaurants were investigated and 101 cases were transferred to judicial departments. Fines worth a combined 37.3 million yuan were levied.

"Our efforts to ensure food safety have reduced the frequency of food poisoning and prevented the spread of diseases caused by human intestinal viruses," Wang Xuening, deputy head of the MOH's supervision bureau, said Monday at a press conference in Beijing.

About 3,600 people in the country were hit by food poisoning in the past three months, an increase of 30 percent compared with the same period last year, Wang said. He attributed the improvement to efforts at strengthening the supervision of the food industry.

He said the monitoring stations under MOH cover 830 million people living in 15 provinces.

The production of 54 staple foods has been under close supervision since 2000.

"We also launched a nationwide food contaminant monitoring program in September to encourage restaurants to buy only certified food," Wang said.

The network covers 91 percent of the country's restaurants. A total of 1.19 million restaurants have set up standardized processes for buying clean food, he said.

"It is an effective way to stop contaminated food from going into circulation," Wang said.

(China Daily December 11, 2007)

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