‘Sunshine Catering’ for Safer Food
Beijing carries out a project of “Sunshine Catering” to give greater impetus to food service businesses to improve food safety.
In recent days, Beijing’s “Sunshine Catering” Project has drawn in more restaurants, with big screens at the entrance that give customers a real-time look at how the food is prepared, how the plates are washed, and how chefs work in the kitchen. Customers can get a peek at everything in the kitchen without even entering the restaurant. All they have to do is open a “Sunshine Catering” app on their phone to check at any time what the kitchen is actually involved in, to be assured of the quality.
These changes are the result of Beijing’s “Sunshine Catering” Project, a major effort to improve people’s lives in 2017. In a short time, it has turned into a systematic “6-in-1” effort where business owners take the basic responsibility, with cooperation across-the-board by consumers, online food sites, trade associations, third-party evaluation agencies and news media in evaluating the various restaurants. According to the plan, gradually, restaurant kitchens will be no longer a “staff only” place, and will be more open to supervision.
Ways to Improve Supervision
Duan Zhiyong, head supervisor of the Beijing Food and Drug Administration’s catering service department, explains that the “Sunshine Catering” Project involves five parts—transparent Information, a Transparent Process, Transparent Evaluations, Transparent Management and Transparent Penalties—which, when combined, open food safety, food processing, evaluations and food safety management to the public for supervision.
The “Transparent Information” refers to food service businesses making food safety information more open, while “Transparent Process” refers to people being able to check the food preparation process via three channels—a glass wall, kitchen videos and screens, and a combination of cameras, networks and smart phone apps. “Transparent Evaluation” means encouraging consumers to give their own evaluation of caterers, while “Transparent Management” refers to food service businesses taking responsibility, disciplining themselves better, and providing management that is more efficient, fairer and more open. The “Transparent Punishment” means having authorities publicise their work, inspections, and relevant penalties in the food service business.
After the “Sunshine Catering” Project began, there have been 21,842 canteens in primary and middle schools, nurseries and kindergartens, and nursing facilities for the aged meeting the Project standards, as well as 53 “Sunshine Catering” demonstration streets (blocks) set up.
Food Safety through Open Kitchens
One part of the “Sunshine Catering” Project that has gotten a lot of interest is the “Transparency” part, where more
than 1,500 restaurants have taken the initiative to make their kitchens more visible in online food ordering, for transparent food preparation.
Duan has explained that the new “see- through kitchens” are places that used to be closed to customers but are now more open and public, for greater transparency. This is mainly done in two ways, one, with kitchens with glass windows or walls where customers get a clear view of food preparation, and the other via kitchen video, or cameras overseeing the food preparation site to show the food preparation process via screen or mobile app. The second of these is the best way to achieve transparency.
Nonetheless, having a video monitoring system in the kitchen can be both a challenge that is hard to accept and an opportunity. In a barbecue place called Yaoayao, on Shibao (“Food Treasure”) Street in Zhongguancun, the person in charge commented, “By showing our kitchen, we can demonstrate to the public our clean environment, good facilities and standard operating procedures, and gain more trust from customers.”
To this Duan adds that, in the future, all of Beijing’s food service businesses will have a more transparent food preparation process and the “seethrough kitchen” will cover every step in the food process, with real-time video viewing available, and total monitoring of the food preparation process. The city continues to make an effort to develop its public evaluation system via the “Sunshine Catering App,” giving consumer advice, through online food ordering, trade associations and thirdparty evaluations to encourage active participation in food safety evaluation.
Quality-concern in Demonstration Blocks
Zhongguancun’s Shibao Street is an effort of the Glorious Oriental Group, with a large garden-style pedestrian food street, whose occupants include Yaoayao, Nanjing Dapaidang and other new restaurants. It’s a place where people can find affordable, safe and tasty specialities, hence the great reception it has gotten since it opened in December 2016. Daily pedestrian flow on the street has grown from around 10,000 at the beginning to nearly 40,000. Some of the more innovative businesses have become quite popular on the internet, attracting even more visitors.
Li Guijie, president of the Glorious Oriental Group, explains that Shibao Street has made a tremendous effort in trying to improve its quality and safety by closely following Beijing standards to build a nationally known, model food city and by using the “Sunshine Catering” Project and following a philosophy of “participation and common interest.” The street’s occupants have taken the initiative in food safety responsibility for example by holding weekly meetings of food service trade managers. On Tuesdays, the operations department has organised meetings of people in charge of the businesses where they can sum up operations of the previous week and increase awareness of food safety. This has also improved business qualifications so that all food service businesses obtain a permit from the food and drug administration and register with its Shibao Street office.
The operations department also conducts inspections from time to time to ensure that all operations remain within permissible bounds. Purchasing methods have also been standardised so that businesses purchasing food are in accordance with laws and regulations, and that food suppliers have the proper qualifications and operations department permits to avoid food from questionable sources. There are checks for unqualified businesses, and proper methods to deal with any problems.
Currently, all of the street’s 79 food service businesses meet “Sunshine Catering” Project standards and provide accessibility to their kitchens via mobile phone apps. Both caterers and consumers are involved in food safety monitoring and Shibao Street is one of the first food blocks in Beijing to get the “Sunshine Catering Model Block” title, a benchmark of national food security.
Duan concludes by saying that the next step is for Beijing to encourage blocks that have the right conditions to become “Sunshine Catering” demonstrations, expand their coverage to increase their influence and the public’s awareness of the “Sunshine Catering” Project, give greater impetus to food service businesses and continue to improve food safety.
A see-through kitchen
Delivering a takeout to a customer