24-hour vigil to ensure safe Games' food

created: 2008-08-01

Quality inspectors are on round-the-clock duty at each of the 148 plants chosen to supply food for athletes and officials taking part in the Olympics to ensure their safety, a senior official said Wednesday.

They are monitoring the entire production process, said Ji Zhengkun, head of the quality inspection department of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Speaking on the sidelines of a news briefing, Ji said several groups of inspectors, with two to three officers in every group, have been posted at each of these plants. He, however, did not give the total number of the inspectors.

The Beijing Olympic organizing committee gave the list of the designated food suppliers to the AQSIQ, he said. The suppliers include rice, flour, bottled-water, meat, dairy-products and condiments companies.

Posting of inspectors began months ago, and they will be on duty till the end of the Paralympics, Ji said. "The aim is to ensure zero problem of quality."

Liu Yinghong, an inspector with the inspection and quarantine bureau in Beijing's Shunyi district, said she and some of her colleagues have been posted at the Yanjing Brewery since May 20.

"Our responsibility is to maintain a 24-hour vigil on production I haven't been home for months," Liu said over the phone.

Her specific tasks include checking certificates and quality reports of each batch of raw materials, and helping workers maintain a detailed production record.

She also has to ensure that the production area is clean and each product has a unique tracking code.

"No product can leave the factory without our ratification," she said.

The results of random checks on food products across the country in the first half of this year, which were released yesterday, give quality officers more confidence to ensure food safety during the Games.

Tests on 3,813 different kinds of food products showed 98.4 percent were up to standard, up 4 percentage points year-on-year, according to the AQSIQ. The food items from 3,288 processing plants can be divided into 33 categories, including milk, beer, jelly, fruit juice, milk powder, canned products, and dried food and nuts.

"The proportion of food products tested and the level of standard met in the first half was the highest in recent years," Ji said. "It shows food products are getting safer in general and lays a solid base for food safety during the Games."

Ji attributed the improvement to stricter supervision and market access requirements. But he conceded that products from small enterprises, at the center of a quality rectification campaign since last fall, are still not so safe at times.

He promised to take further action, like conducting more raids on plants and punishing violators more severely.

Intangible products such as customer services have received attention, too.

The secretary-general of China Association for Quality Promotion under the AQSIQ, Chen Chuanyi, yesterday said inquiries at hospitals, financial institutions, telecom firms, and on after-sales service hotlines of some home appliance and automobile makers in Beijing and other Olympic co-host cities show services are indeed getting better.

"We started conducting such inquiries in 2001, and our satisfaction rate has increased from 64 percent to 98 percent," Chen said.