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Report: Kunming's food safety

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Yesterday, Kunming's Food Safety Commission made its mid-year report on food safety and inspection. According to the briefing, 62,192 establishments were inspected under special regulations regarding misuse of food additives and non-food additives.

Recent food safety scares, most notably the melamine cases of 2008, have raised the profile of food safety issues.

According to the report, this year the Kunming Agriculture Bureau carried out special monitoring of veterinary drugs and illegal animal feed additives. Samples from Kunming's 14 counties and city districts all gave negative results for Clenbuterol, a pig feed additive that has been implicated in food scares in other parts of China. Fresh eggs and milk in the samples showed no signs of Sudan red or melamine residues.

Tests for vegetable pesticide residues at selected locations including Wal-Mart and the Chenggong Longcheng Vegetable Wholesale Market gave a 98.4 percent pass rate.

Yunnan is renowned for its wide range of wild mushrooms, which are widely seen as being safe due to their natural growing environment. The report stated that 15 samples of edible fungi had a pass rate of 100% for pesticide residues. However, three of the samples showed traces of fluorescent whitening agents.

From 32 stores selling hot water pot foods (for example, tripe), nine out of 73 samples (12.3%) tested positive for formaldehyde. Similar products at large-scale supermarkets and chains didn't fare much better – here the detection rate was 11%.

Tests of preserved meat products in 38 establishments detected sodium nitrite in 7.7% of samples. Sodium nitrite's usage is carefully regulated in the production of preserved meat products in westernised countries, due to concerns about its toxicity, especially when exposed to high temperatures.

The report makes particular mention of companies specialising in tableware disinfection. Some restaurants in Kunming bulk outsource washing of their chopsticks and crockery – often noticeable from the plastic shrink-wrap these items are packed in before they're opened for customers. Currently, Kunming has more than 60 of these businesses, of which only 25 qualified. The report advises consumers to look for an oval logo issued by the city hygiene department on the wrapper of disinfected tableware.

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