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Law aims to license street food vendors

2013-02-19 09:38 Global Times     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

New food safety regulations, set to come into force in April, will legalize street food vendors by granting them a license and a designated place to do business in the city.

Experts and vendors welcomed the new regulation while also calling for more specifics, such as how food hygiene and safety is to be controlled.

According to the new Beijing Food Safety Regulation, mobile vendors selling street food can apply for an official permit that allows them to stay in designated areas to do their business. But first, vendors would need to get approval from local governments and accept supervision from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement.

The regulation is drafted by the bureau and will be launched on April 1, 2013, once it gets final approval, the Beijing Times said Monday.

The Beijing city administration bureau confirmed the new regulation but was unwilling to offer any information about it. Fan Xiaosi, bureau media officer, said the rule is important since it regulates street food, which can have consequences for people's health.

"But it's still at draft level and opinions are being gathered about it, so no details have been revealed," she said.

An anonymous staff member from the Sanlitun urban management office said he has not heard of the new regulation, and could not comment. But he admitted the rule would make life easier for chengguan (urban management officers).

"We chase vendors cooking and selling food like sausages every single day to keep them off the streets," he said.

"They are all unlicensed vendors and we have to go there every day to keep them away," he said, noting the vendors might cause food safety problems and mess up public order.

Street vendors also welcome the regulation. One vendor surnamed Guo, who sells roasted chestnuts in Yayuncun, Chaoyang district, said that he really wants to have a place where he can permanently settle. 

"I hope to get a license without much expense or complicated application procedures," he said, "so we won't have to escape from chengguan and take the risk of losing our property from time to time," he said.

Zhang Xin, an associate professor at the School of Public Administration of Renmin University of China, said that there is a public demand for street food in town.

"Instead of banning these vendors, it's more reasonable to offer them a place to do business," he said, "it will make supervising them easier."

Zhang said the regulation should be as specific as possible to enable law enforcement authorities to carry it out.

"For instance, chenggguan have no knowledge about food quality so they might have to work alongside food safety authorities as well," he said.

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