Internet fame leads to food safety inspections

The city's food watchdog is stepping up inspections of wanghong restaurants to ensure safety after a string of scandals.

Shanghai's food watchdog is to step up supervision and management on wanghong restaurants — literally "web celebrity restaurants" — by establishing a high risk list and increasing the frequency of inspections, officials said today.

The measures came after a string of food scandals involving such restaurants this year.

"The rapid expansion of wanghong restaurants and their overloaded operations resulting from booming business have posed risks on food safety," said Shen Weitao, director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration's food supervision and management department.

There are nearly 2,000 wanghong restaurants in the city of about 100 brands, and they feature rapid expansion and extremely long queues, according to the administration.

"A list of high risk wanghong food brands will be established with information from tip-offs and complaints from the public, comments on restaurant review websites and media reports," said Shen. 

The list will be constantly updated along with a database maintained by the city's FDA and district market supervision and management bureaus based on checks, he said. 

Inspections and management will be strengthened on restaurants on the list, and inspections on all outlets of a wanghong brand will be conducted if one outlet is involved in a serious food safety incident, Shen said. 

In addition, inspections of wanghong restaurants that are expanding rapidly will be increased to ensure food safety, he said. 

Some operators of wanghong restaurants lack professional knowledge on food safety and more guidance will be provided to ensure food safety, he said. 

The term wanghong also extends to food and brands and boutique stores that were "discovered," or later became popular, through Internet exposure.

In July, all nine outlets of LIST, a popular Hong Kong-style dim sum and dessert restaurant in Shanghai, were temporarily suspended after 71 diners became sick after meals at four branches of the restaurant in a typical food safety scandal involving a wanghong restaurant. 

Salmonella was found in the food and the restaurant was found making cold pastries beyond the limits of its license, according to the watchdog. 

Last month, an outlet of the popular milk tea chain Yidiandian (A Little Tea) in Putuo District was suspended after a customer complained that he found a cockroach in a cup of tea bought from the store. 

Shen Da Cheng, a popular dim sum shop, was also suspended and with contaminated food destroyed in April, following a video uploaded online showing rats in its kitchen. 

In March, four bakeries run by bakery chain Farine in Xuhui and Huangpu districts and the Pudong New Area were closed over an expired flour scandal.

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