China’s market regulator will loosen requirements for obtaining an important food license, making it easier for small food establishments to serve up popular cold dishes such as liangpi and salads.
The policy change comes after several establishments were handed huge fines for not having the correct license, and some nefarious customers blackmailed restaurants for not having the right license.
On July 12, the State Administration for Market Regulation announced it would “simplify” the checking of facilities and equipment used for preparing cold dishes, starting on Dec. 1.
According to the new policy, licensing requirements will be relaxed for low-risk cold food preparation, including defrosting, mixing, washing, and cutting.
In China, many small food establishments do not have the necessary cold food license because of the high cost of meeting relevant food safety standards. For example, cold foods such as fruits and vegetables must be stored in a designated space separated from ingredients for hot foods.
Food establishments must also be equipped with special equipment such as air conditioners and utensils designated for handling cold food. These facilities can cost over 10,000 yuan ($1,397), a restaurant operator told the state-run Workers’ Daily.
In June, several restaurants in Shanghai were fined 5,000 yuan each for serving the popular summer dish liangpi, which is made from cold noodles with shredded cucumber, without the proper cold food license. The news garnered huge attention online, with over 400 million views on the microblogging platform Weibo.
In recent months, criminals have even exploited the strict food safety requirements to make money. A Shanghai man surnamed Zhu was sentenced in May to eight months in prison after extorting four restaurants without the cold food license.
According to The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, Zhu identified the restaurants by searching for “salads” on food delivery apps, then threatened to report the restaurants to the authorities for not being licensed to serve the food unless they paid him a fee. His scheme earned him almost 10,000 yuan.
There have been other instances of extortion elsewhere. The Workers’ Daily reported that a father and son in Zhuzhou in the central Hunan province have demanded compensation from 49 restaurants for not having the right license since 2020.
According to China’s Food Safety Law, customers can demand restaurant operators pay compensation totaling 10 times the price of their food.
In response, Zhuzhou authorities are reportedly considering a more lenient penalty system for first-time offenders when dealing with relevant complaints.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: VCG)