Shanghai ups food hygiene; coliform found in cakes

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SHANGHAI (AP) Shanghai's health authorities plan to issue new rules requiring big stores to ensure shopping baskets and carts are clean, after finding that most are contaminated with potentially hazardous molds and bacteria, state-run media reported Tuesday.

The new rules coincide with fresh outbreaks of bird flu in parts of China. They also come amid reports that inspectors recently found coliform bacteria in cream cakes from several local bakery chains.

The Shanghai Health Supervision Agency plans to issue new cleanliness standards for shopping baskets and carts later this year, the state-run newspaper Shanghai Daily reported.

Spot checks in various parts of the city of more than 20 million people found that most shopping carts and baskets were contaminated with mold, and many carried bacteria that could cause food poisoning, the report said.

Shanghai shoppers often find baskets visibly grimy and shopping carts littered with rubbish from previous users. At big supermarkets, frozen poultry is often sold as is, and some shoppers just put the whole frozen chickens feet and all into their shopping carts unwrapped.

"We also want consumers to be more aware of the problem. For instance, it is important to wash hands after returning from the supermarket," the report quoted agency official Mo Weiwen as saying.

The new rules will include new standards and disinfection guidelines, Mo said.

"According to our company's policy, we check the baskets and carts everyday, as they are used a lot and easily get dirty," said a branch manager at the Zhenbei branch of the French-owned hypermarket chain, Carrefour SA.

The manager, who like many Chinese would give only her surname, Han, did not say if the retailer was routinely cleaning the carts and baskets.

Apart from occasional outbreaks of food poisoning and a slew of food safety scandals, public health officials have vowed to step up precautions to prevent the potential spread of bird flu.

At least three human deaths from the H5N1 strain of the virus have been reported this month, and one of the victims' children, a 2-year-old girl, was said to be in critical condition after falling ill on Jan. 7.

Meanwhile, the city's consumer rights commission said that cakes from several major bakery chains had failed tests because they contained high levels of coliform bacteria, the Shanghai Daily and other newspapers said.

Coliform bacteria do not cause food poisoning but they are a sign of fecal contamination that can.

Associated Press researcher Ji Chen contributed to this report.




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