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Proposal would tighten online food rules

Tian Shengjie
Updated: Jun 19,2017 9:23 AM     China Daily

Shanghai watchdog presents draft of safety regulation for public comment

Shanghai’s food safety watchdog has proposed tightening the rules for online food ordering and delivery services, including making it mandatory for a food provider to have a physical restaurant location.

A draft of revised regulations for the industry, drawn up by the city’s food and drug administration, has been made available for public comment until July 13. It comes at a time when the use of food delivery websites and apps is booming, especially among the younger generation.

Data from BigData-Research in Beijing show the transaction volume of China’s takeout food market jumped in the first three months of this year by 25.3 percent over the last quarter of 2016 to 84.3 billion yuan ($12.4 billion).

As of April, online food ordering and delivery services had been used 194 million times.

Food safety and quality remain the top issues for consumers, surpassing concerns about discounts offered by vendors, delivery speed and after-sales service, the company said in a recent report.

In Shanghai, more than 60,000 unlicensed online food vendors were shut down last year, according to Xu Jianchun, director of the city’s office for the campaign against intellectual property infringements and counterfeit goods.

The food safety watchdog’s proposed new rules include requiring employees in the industry to display health certificates in public and to make sure such information is accessible.

In addition, containers used to deliver food should not be used for other purposes, and dishware and kitchenware should meet hygiene standards.

If the food being processed and delivered is found to violate food safety rules, supervising departments can intervene.

Major food ordering and delivery apps, including industry leader Ele.me, declined to comment on the prospect of tightened rules on June 15, saying they are still studying the proposals.

Wang Zhi, a food delivery worker at Ele.me, said: “Since the existing rules were implemented last year, the company has strengthened management processes, especially in terms of requiring every one of us to have a health certificate.

“The process of obtaining the certificate is complex,” Wang added.

Some residents said that they hope the watchdog can do more.

“I got a stomachache after eating food ordered via apps several times,” said Shen Siwen, a 21-year-old university student in Shanghai. “This new rule strengthens supervision of online platforms, but the supervising departments should also be held accountable when food safety issues arise. These departments need to assume joint liability.”

Jin Jiamin, an employee of a State-owned company, said: “I have found bugs in food when eating at a restaurant. So the requirement of asking online food providers to have a physical store does not necessarily mean food safety issues will be solved. More important is that the regulations are well implemented.”

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