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Tracing System to Boost Food Safety

The Chinese government is strengthening its efforts in building a food produce quality tracing system to ensure food safety, with various food tracing systems applied across the country.

In the logistic center of Jifa Farming Development Co. Ltd, the biggest vegetable provider in Qinhuangdao City of Hebei Province, the black and white bar code appears on every package of tomatoes, celery and other green vegetables.

"The bar code is the 'identity card' of vegetables. You can find information about the producing area, producing date, producer, brand and source of the seed just by scanning the bar code in the supermarket or through phones, internet and the short messages, " said Zhao Huan, an pesticide checker of the company on Friday.

"Once a food safety incident happens, we can track the producing area of the vegetables through the bar code and solve the problem as quick as possible, " said Zhao.

The Jifa company provides more than 200,000 kg vegetable to the neighboring Beijing, Tianjin and Tangshan cities and is also a major provider for the Olympics.

"We have a food safety data tracing center in our city, which covers the major fruits, vegetables, sea food, livestocks and eggs. The food provided for the Olympics will be tracked in all procedures including production, processing, packaging, storing and transporting, " said Chen Rurong, head of the Qinhuangdao Municipal Food Safety Office.

Since 2004, the Agriculture Ministry has explored ways and means on traceability systems for farm produce quality and safety, and conducted trials in eight cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai for surveillance.

The Beijing government has set up a rigorous food tracking and monitoring system for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and food safety for the games was fully guaranteed.

All the procedures involving Olympic food, including production, processing, packaging, storing and transporting, will be closely monitored and the information would be incorporated into a database, which would enable food supervisors to be fully aware of all the procedures and trace the sources in case of any incidents.

Tianjin has established a tracking system for pork. In Shouguang City of eastern Shandong Province, the largest vegetable provider of Beijing, code bar has been taken as a leading tracing tool for the vegetable safety.

As a pesticide checker, Zhao Huan said he couldn't understand why China-made farm produce were regularly questioned and criticized in foreign press.

As the upcoming Olympics will draw hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors to Beijing, the agriculture ministry has planned a special campaign to ensure market supply and food quality and safety in the city, said Gao Hongbin, vice minister of agriculture in early January.

The campaign, which would be a team effort between the ministry and 13 provincial governments, aims to "further improve the quality and safety of agricultural products", he said.

"The long-term goal is not to meet the demand of a single area or a single phase, we want to continuously improve the food safety across the country through the campaign," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2008)

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