Food inspectors examine inexpensive snacks at a shop near a school in Beijing's Dongcheng district last year.
China will launch a large-scale campaign to crack down on poor-quality inexpensive snacks sold in shops near schools, the newly established State Administration for Market Regulation said on Tuesday.
Food authorities will close all illegal factories that produce substandard snacks, such as the so-called 8-cent snacks, including gluten spice strips (latiao), dried tofu, ice treats and various soft drinks, according to a notice on the administration's website.
The new regulatory administration now oversees the former China Food and Drug Administration.
Authorities will also crack down on "small factories with unsanitary production conditions and those using tainted or substandard ingredients", the notice said.
The country's top market regulator will work with law enforcement authorities to cut off sales channels of substandard snacks, it said.
"It will also conduct more random inspections of the makers of those snacks," it said. "Any illegal production will be dealt with seriously."
Food authorities will also cooperate with education authorities to conduct educational campaigns on food safety for students and parents, who are encouraged to report snacks that don't list a manufacture date on the package, or that fail to identify the producer, according to the notice.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education, said children are especially attracted to the snacks, many of which lack detailed product information.
"Latiao, a popular cheap snack, usually contains high levels of salt which could lead to high blood pressure," Chu said, adding that illegal latiao producers usually use excessive quantities of preservatives and include various other additives.
Food authorities have launched several crackdowns on substandard snacks. Although previous crackdowns have yielded positive results, similar spicy junk foods and other shoddy snacks are still commonplace, he added.
In June 2017, the Beijing Food and Drug Administration launched a large-scale campaign against unhealthy snacks in wholesale markets and shops near schools. A total of 6,100 kilograms of substandard snacks were removed from the capital's shelves.
"These cheap snacks are most common in rural areas, where students come from less-privileged families. They threaten the health of millions of children," he said.
It is difficult to supervise food quality in rural areas as many underground factories can move from one place to another. Therefore, these crackdowns require effort from all sides and should be seen as long-term work, Chu said.
The schools should provide students with food that tastes better and has more nutrition, so they will not feel hungry and will be less inclined to buy the snacks, he said.