French restaurants violating food safety rules

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Tourists flocking to France this summer in search of sun and good food have been warned that more than a quarter of eateries in its top tourist spots violate food safety requirements.


By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 1:07PM BST 14 Aug 2008

The ugly truth about French food hygiene was revealed today by its agriculture minister, Michel Barnier.

In a swoop dubbed "operation holiday food", an army of inspectors seized and disposed of 30 tons of produce after visiting almost 10,000 venues - more than twice the amount confiscated last year. In all, 27 per cent of the sites inspected failed to meet food quality and hygiene norms. Breaches included selling mouldy ingredients, food handed out past its sell-by date or thawed and refrozen produce.

Some 37 establishments were ordered to close, and over 400 warnings and fines handed out. In one holiday centre selling food, 52 kilos of frozen produce was binned.

"The image of France is at stake", said Mr Barnier, who released the figures while visiting a motorway grill house. He wants to change his ministry's name to include the word "food".

Mr Barnier promised a clamp-down on the main culprits - chip, kebab and pizza vendors, but also road-side restaurants. The most common problem was with refrigeration, he said, which affects products such as ice-cream, mayonnaise in sandwiches and ready-made salads.

He made no mention of how many higher-end restaurants were on the inspection black list.

French inspectors have already turned the screw on companies preparing food products including raw fish, like tartare, due to the risk of contracting a parasite called anisakis, which can affect the digestive system and spark allergies.

Mr Barnier said France alone could not be blamed, singling out sub-standard food imported from outside the European Union, such as "adulterated oil from Ukraine or off beef from Brazil". Echoing the words of President Nicolas Sarkozy, he said France, which currently holds the six-month EU presidency, would push for tougher European controls on food imports.

"Imported food should respect the same norms as those imposed on European producers. These moves will guarantee French consumers and foreign tourists impeccable food safety", he said.

He also used the operation to promote French fruit and vegetables, whose sale price has dived due to lack of demand. Producers will exceptionally be allowed to sell off their stocks directly in supermarket car parks.



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