Chinese Frequent Food Safety Incidents

With the acceleration of economic globalization, food safety issues has gone beyond national boundaries and become a global gambit. The Ikea horse meatball scandal affected 17 countries across Europe had raised people’s attention to give more concern about what they are eating. With both coastal and inner area’s urbanization, China’s food safety and the regulations of Chinese central government food oversight, as well as its penalty systems are still weak links that can’t meet the standard and beyond all you imagine.

China is a huge country and developed in several high-end areas with a magnificent rapid pace in the last two decades. Succeeded in hosting not only the 2008 Olympic games accompanied with the launch of space walk but also the significant World Expo in 2010. China’s GDP has overtaken Japan as the world’s second biggest economy.

With theses monumental accomplishments, China still can’t conquer its own food problem facing serious food safety incidents occurred frequently in circulation.

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As time elapsing, the criteria of measuring the quality of life are no longer GDP but Human Development Index. To improve the level of food quality and safety have become an urgent need to address the major issues. Here’s a list. It may sound like the advertisement of provincial characteristic snacks. But they are not! Qingdao formalin small whitebait, Shanghai stained bread (bun), Shenyang poison bean sprouts, Shandong toxic ginger, Hefei stained cake, Beijing optical brightened popcorn, Hainan poison cylinder beans, Guangdong ink pasta and dyed seaweed, sudan dyed duck egg, malachite green dyed fish, melamine baby milk, cucumber with flower, watermelon explosion, gutter oil, stain pepper, sweet potato powder with ink paraffin, clenbuterol pork, fake beef, toxic chives, bleached rice, gutter crayfish, hydrogen peroxide chicken legs, eel raised by contraceptives, hormone stained strawberries, toxic bamboo shoots contained excessive sodium metabisulfite which exceeded the limit at least 144 times.

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All those I listed above are food scandals that are detected. What about those remained undetected? Why are these incidents ongoing taking place in China? What are the links between food safety problems and China’s incomplete urbanization? One Chinese netizen joked, “We developed chemistry knowledge in our daily life. It is hard to believe that Chinese people are still alive. ” With these constant pop-up news reports, it is easily made us doubt that why a huge country with such strong central government can’t deal and control this one issue.

This article will demonstrate some facets of Chinese food safety problem along with some solutions to the problem from my perspective within the era of “ urban China ” and analyze the causation. Food Safety Incidents and Problems: Food is the basis of human survival and development. Especially Chinese people, a widely spread common saying stated, “ Food is the paramount necessity of the people. ” Food safety is related to the human health and lives so that food safety has become a major social issue of people’s livelihood. Although Chinese government insisted that they have improved supervision and imposed tougher penalties on violators, the incidents like Sanlu tainted baby milk scandal and illegal cooking oil ongoing jumped into public sight.

Furthermore, Chinese central government’s response and attitude is another reason pissed Chinese people off. It is reported that Xianguo Wu, Shijiazhuang former party secretary, who was deposed due to Sanlu tainted baby milk, is now served as provincial governor, the deputy leader of Hebei Rural Work Leading Group. The analysis of frequent food safety incidents can be divided into three sections. 1) Central Government’s Responsibility 2) The Circulation of The Society 3) The Quality and Conscience of Merchants Central Government’s Responsibility “The Leopard opened a bathhouse and contracted to the Fox. Squirrel undertook the project and hired eight Ants to do the massage for customers.

One day, the Lion went to take a bath and he was drowned in the basin. Tiger King was shocked. He sent the police to investigate and resulted in scolded the Fox, beat the Squirrel and eventually, arrested the Ants because they don’t have the license! ” What I stated above is the analog written by the Chinese netizen indicating how the central government functions. If you can understand that, you really understand China style and how pathetic Chinese migrants are. They earned the below-minimum wage but have to take the responsibility which is almost equivalent to the drug trafficking. There are four major terminologies to identify Chinese Migrant labor.

Some call them rural migrant or urban migrant to denote people’s origin or destination. Some use floating population meaning those who have the weakest ties to an urban job and home. And the other one is temporary migrant. Temporary migrant appeared frequently in newspaper recently. When incidents occurred, it is always because of the temporary migrant who miss – operated the system or disobeyed the law. According to <China’s Labor Law>, there shouldn’t be such a thing. If one is hired by a company, there is a contract. Otherwise, it is illegal. Just like the scenes took place in one of the Four Great Classical Novel written in 16th century during the Ming Dynasty, Journey to the West.

One of the latest reinterpretation of this novel is that monsters who have background were all taken away when they got in trouble while their followers were beaten to death. The leader of the monster group can always leave the relationship. Every time when some governor was involved in a reported incident, there would be a temporary migrant to shoulder the responsibility. The head of China’s food authority,Shuangjiang Li has been forced to resign. Food production supervision department, former deputy director, Junkai Bao received an administrative sanction which is a record of demerit. This largest case of its kind so far in China involved many governors.

The officials were from the GAQSIQ, the ministries of agriculture and health, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Food and Drug Administration. But Junkai was taken up the head of Entrance Inspection Agency of Anhui province in 2008. In the next year, he was promoted to be the deputy director of AQSIQ Technology Division. When the news released, caused dramatic attention from the public. Many expressed their displeased feeling via Internet to self-deprecating the weakness of Chinese people or to criticizing the unfair treatments regarding government. Chinese Government advertises that they are building a modern legal society when they still were inverse models. The Chinese food safety regulation system and criteria are imperfect.

The supporting technology fell behind. Because the basic law is incomplete, the intensity of the constraints is low. The current food safety laws are lack of systematic and integrity. The implementation has no standardization and continuity. The regulations are not binding on emerging incidents, and the supervision toward food safety seemed useless in preventing the incidents but the aftermath. For example, when the Sanlu baby milk scandal first bombed out in 2003, Sanlu group denied the facts. 17 days later, Sanlu group diverted suspicion from the guilty by the apology statement issued in response to the publication from the disease control center.

In 2008, when ill babies were diagnosed kidney failure and kidney stones, they recalled partial baby milk and shifted their responsibility to the dairy farmers, insisted that it is not the problem of the food process. “The hidden of the local government and the silence of the local media, Shijiazhuang provincial governor refused to report to the central government and hid the information for longer than one month. According to the “safety emergency preplan of food safety incidents”, Shijiazhuang local governor should have reported in two hours. Right after the incident occurred, Sanlu Group wrote a report to Shijiazhuang Governor, mentioned two advices. One of the suggestions is that they hope the government can control the negative report toward Sanlu baby milk.

Although local governor denied, they interpreted by the silence of the local media”(Yijian, 2009). This reaction and delay also led us to another thought-provoking issue is that why a administrative governor would listen to a merchant? The corruptions. Right after Chinese new prime minister, Jinping Xi started his tenure, he removed and cleared countlessly governors who involved in the corruption. Up to four governors on a daily base. The threatens from the corruptions are not small-scales.

Because of the corruption, Sanlu tainted baby milk passed the quality check. Because of the corruption, provincial governor helped to hide the information. Because of the corruption, relevant governor went back to position or even higher position. Xi insisted: there are many problems to be solved, particularly the occurrences of corruptions, formalism, bureaucracy and other issues. The party must make great efforts to solve” (Xinhuanet, 2012). Wait and see. Government’s monopoly over food inspection is low efficient and high costly. The lack of advanced detection technology made the emerging disease and bacteria impossible to be detected. The administrate supervision are somewhat active in controlling the aftermath.

Focusing on the wrong aspects in food safety led the government always play the role of firemen but not prevention which has strongly shaken the confidence in Chinese Government. Irregular small businesses, private commissary and mobile stalls usually appear in the urban fringe.

Read Ecosystem – my role and responsibility essay

Within this region, both in terms of product quality and sanitary conditions will still be a lot of problems. For regulatory authorities, this region is the hardest part to supervise. China’s Quality Inspection Department has begun and strengthened a comprehensive routine supervision, and implementation of regional regulatory responsibility. Professor Tongyi Cai said:” We have all of these food safety management, are intended to achieve precise management of food safety. ” But for China, apply the precise management of food safety indeed have a certain degree of difficulty. On one hand, it is hard to take control of the vast areas. On the other hand, the urban – rural gap is too big, which is not easy to balance.

The second facet referred to the problem of incomplete urbanization of the rural area. Causes of the Social Circulations The scattered agricultural production made the pollution problem more prominent. It is estimated that 85% – 90% heavy metals from rivers, lakes and costal seas are persistent in agriculture, livestock and aquatic products. The eutrophication of farming water is seriously affecting the human health. Secondly, the uses of chemical fertilizers have brought great risks to food safety from the origin. The national product quality supervision showed that some of the prohibited highly toxic pesticides are still in use in some areas with its name changed.

The latest news on food safety problem just surfaced less than one month is Shandong ginger. “Farmers in Shandong have been overusing an illegal and highly toxic pesticide to grow ginger for years on end, adding yet another concern to the country’s growing list of food scandals” (Kao, 2013). “The CCTV report said farmers in Weifang had been using 120 to 300kg of the pesticide per hectare, nearly three to six times above the level considered safe. One farmer interviewed by CCTV said she was aware of aldicarb’s toxicity and did not use it on ginger that her family ate.

Another said he had been using aldicarb for more than 20 years since it was first introduced to the market. At last, among various types of food poisoning, microbial pollution was in the first place, accounting for 40% of the whole food poisoning. Food processing, storage, transportation and sales process could easily lead to widespread of microbial contamination. Using toxic fertilizers and pesticides also led to another side effect, which is water pollution. The surface water and groundwater were already threatened under the pressure of rapid industrial development and huge burden of growing population. Fertilizers and pesticides were pushed water pollution to an extreme. “Intensive used nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides are a serious source of water pollution.

Poor-quality fertilizers, excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers (relative to phosphorous ad potassium), and especially widespread use of cheap ammonia bicarbonate fertilizer, which is readily soluble and easily washed out to streams, lakes, and aquifers, add to the impact. Pesticide use, more widespread in recent years, has been implicated in species loss (birds) and has polluted some important water bodies. Animal waste from livestock farms is another major source of biological oxygen-demand and coliform pollution. The ecological balance of Hangzhou Bay is seriously threatened, primarily by agriculture – related runoff, which, according to one study, contributed 88% of chemical oxygen-demand pollution” (Naughton, 2007).

Overall Chinese official data indicate that 1. % GDP went into investment in pollution control in 2003, a substantial sum (Environmental Statistics 2004, 7, 96). Alike Food Supervision Department, Chinese government put lesser effort on prevention but aftermath. The status of a large number of small and medium-sized processing enterprises decided the food safety problems’ existence. Small scales of production decentralized the management and are against the implementation of standardization. The data from the National Quality Watchdog pointed out that among 60,085 private enterprises, 94. 9% firms were less than 100 workers and 79. 4% of them are family-owned business manufacture, which are less than 10 workers.

Those low levels of modernization and poor hardware manufactures became the major force of China’s food production chain. The beneath-standard equipment and the ignorance of sanitation are also the keys to food hygiene and security problems. Most unskilled labors are migrants both returnees from the Cultural Revolution and the rural population. The Quality and Conscience of Merchants In order to maximize profit, merchants will hide or provide fake information to consumers. The moral hazard problem thus appeared. “Sanlu milk powder incident” is a typical sample. Consumers cannot get real food safety information (including merchants use uncommon words or unfamiliar terminology to confuse consumers).

They can only rely on the trust of its brand. When those so-called national free-inspection quality products also besieged by scandal, whom can consumers trust? Testing agencies? Research institutions? Or Government? Entrepreneurs are lacking in the sense of responsibility and disregarding integrity. All they were doing is maximizing the profit, no matter the benefit of their consumers and elude regulators thus most illegal products are even harm to human beings. They applied different chemicals into food process to minimize the cost or to attract customers. Therefore, their disregarding integrity became direct cause of the gutter oil, toxic cowpea food safety accidents.

An undercover investigation by a professor from Wuhan Polytechnic University in March 2010 estimated that one in 10 of all meals in China were cooked using recycled oil, often scavenged from the drains beneath restaurants. The State Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide emergency ordering an investigation into the scandal of the so-called ‘sewer’ oil, which further dented public confidence in the food industry. “(Foster, 2011) Most Chinese people’s nutrition and health knowledge are based on living experience passed from generation to generation. They subconsciously consider that foods are safe as long as they are hygeian. Traders are using fake and shoddy food for illegal profit. And this kind of unethical action is creasing.

Recently, food poisoning incidents were significantly increased compared with previous years. “Manufacturers calculate correctly that the odds of profiting from unsafe practices far exceed the odds of getting caught, experts say. China’s explosive growth has spawned nearly half a million food producers, the authorities say, and four-fifths of them employ 10 or fewer workers, making oversight difficult. ” (LaFraniere, 2011). Driven by profit, food entrepreneurs purposely make artificial food harmed thousands of Chinese people, which are very unacceptable. “There were concerns that non-permitted Sudan dyes were used in poultry feeds to enhance the color of egg yolks, in particular those labeled as “red yolk” eggs.

Follow-up investigation conducted by Mainland authorities and the Centre for Food Safety both revealed that Sudan dyes were present in some duck and hen egg samples” (“Sudan dyes found,” 2007). What are Sudan dyes? “Sudan dyes are synthetic chemical dyes which can be used for coloring hydrocarbon solvents, oils, fats, waxes and plastics. In food, the main concern is its cancer causing potential. ” (Sudan dyes found, 2007). And not only the duck and hen eggs were affected, but also the chili powder. These sorts of things became common now in China.

Other than China, “The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serve important roles in ensuring food safety in the United States” (FoodSafety. ov, 2013). U. S FDA hired experts in different fields, supervising from raw materials to production, logistics, and sales and after sales, which are almost all aspects of comprehensive supervision. Although this decentralized regulatory system is exposing low efficiency and lack of coordination, FDA fundamentally solve food safety problems. Under the new act, FDA can not only directly recall food with safety risk but also has the right to inspect food processing plants as well as implement stringent standard on imported foods. FDA succeeded in eliminating the accident potential in sprouting. FDA is thus a department missing in Chinese government.

China emerged as a low-cost exporter in the 1990s. After joined WTO, the door for Chinese food export was opened even wider exporting from vegetable to seafood and poultry. But the pace was slowed down when shipments of food cannot meet the standards in Japan, Europe and other countries. “Producing safer food for export is expensive and reduces China’s cost advantage. ” Don’t they ever give a thought that once Chinese food is no longer consider safe, there would be no export requirement. No country would ever import food that cannot be eaten. Those food scandals appeared on domestic or overseas newspapers definitely destroyed the credibility and reputation of Chinese food export industries. Numerous challenges face both the export sector, where food safety efforts are the most advanced, and the domestic sector, where many food safety initiatives are more recent. Problems with food safety can influence trade flows, as evidenced by China’s setbacks for some export products” (Calvin, L. , Gale, F. , Hu, D. , & Lohmar, B. , 2006). We are in an era of information. There is a gap between standards of China’s and developed countries’.

And this gap is widening even as the pace of the information age accelerates through society. The Chinese food safety problem is not only dragging down the export industries but also China’s reputation worldwide. It is suggested by Chinese expert, “To achieve self-regulation and industry standards, industry associations and unions also need to play a role. At present, the role of industry associations and unions are still immature, therefore, more responsibility falls on the government. But Chinese government was always in a passive position.

Possible Solutions:

1) Perfecting The Current Supervision System

2) Truly Open Information and Preventions in Advance

3) Encourage More Participatory and Expressive Citizens Achieving Common Oversight

4) Improve The Level of Food Industry Perfecting

The Current Supervision System

Firstly, the Chinese system and standards are flawed. The policy might not fit Chinese situation but by following the standards, it is possible to perfect Chinese supervision over food safety.

By means of following, the criteria of ingredient and food addictive, the proportion of remained pesticide and fertilizer are the major needs to be captured. Further more, China should promote more research and development in organic food industries stopping the toxins from the origin. China needs to intensify efforts to implement involving corporate responsibility and punishment of those responsible and the crackdown on fake goods production and illegal processes.

On the other hand, China needs to monitor the entire process by making full use of modern science and technology to establish a relatively complete supervision mechanism and to improve the relevance as well as the effectiveness of supervision. Truly Open Information and Preventions in Advance

Establish and improve the food safety information, communications, and publishing network system. Disclose the information to the public because people have the right to know and it is an important prerequisite for public participation. To rebuild the credibility of food safety, the supervision mechanism can set up a query and rating system for public participation and support. Because China has only one party existing, there’s no opposite power to against CCP. Therefore, releasing the information and response to the public are based on “voluntariness”. It is famous that the reporter who found out those is libel and slander, defamation to China, although most of them are truth, they disappear with no reason.

Thus, the freedom of speech is important as well as China’s another invisible wall – China’s Great Firewall. Encourage More Participatory and Expressive Citizens Achieving Common Oversight On the one hand, increase the propaganda and education on food nutrition and health. On the other hand, improve governors at all levels the awareness of the importance of food safety.

Offer related courses could be one way. “The degree of consumer understanding and confidence in food safety labels is uncertain, as is consumers’ willingness to pay higher prices for these products. Consumers in China are primarily concerned with freshness, appearance, and taste”(Calvin, L. , Gale, F. , Hu, D. , & Lohmar, B. 2006). Set the ways of consumer complaints unimpeded.

The establishment of a sound and effective system for consumers to complain and report is essential and imminent. Governors should release the information of food safety timely to guarantee the public’s right to know. It is way much harder to build the credibility than destroy it. The response from government promptly is really an encouragement to stimulate the participation from consumers implying that relevant governors are active. They can also reward those who are brave and active. Optimize The Allocation of Food Industry Trace back to the origin, food industries and vendors are the primary sector related to the food safety problems. The Chinese Government must solve those small-scale agriculture production and scattered business.

I’m not saying that small-scale production is not feasible but at the current stage, they are not practicable. As I stated before, small scales of production are lack of management and the sanitary don’t meet the standard. Chinese Government should encourage scientific productivities, which are so-called green industries and promote environmentally friendly productions. To administer the harmless agricultural production and organic food production, implement certification and quality supervision accordingly. Give full play to the food-related associations that representing the consumers. And merchants should emphasis on integrity production along with their moral consciousness.

Conclusion: With the development of urban China, the increasing food scandals and food safety problems are threatening people’s health and affecting the confidence in Chinese food market. The credibility of Government went down so as the export of Chinese food industries. What raised my interest in setting Chinese food safety problem as my research topic and compelling incident is Sanlu tainted baby milk scandal, which caused kidney stones and kidney failures on babies. Sanlu is a typical case reflecting most issues I mentioned. The three major causes are the central government’s responsibility, the circulation of the society and the quality and conscience of merchants. The regulations are weak and have a lot of flaws for supervision. But a small leak will sink a great ship.

Rapid industrialization and development that China is achieving is sacrificing the environment condition and Chinese people’s health including water pollution and diseases. Over using fertilizers and toxic pesticides are causing cancers today or in the future. Extravagant spending limited resources are irrational. China spent more money on repairing the environment rather than preventing in advance. Like the their response to those frequently occurred food safety incidents, China tend to be a fireman for the aftermath. Just like the lyrics, “Slow down China,Chinese people have almost been pushed to their limit. ” Moreover, due to the desire of maximizing the profit, Chinese food producer are adding those toxic food or even industrial additives, which are very immoral.

If these problems remain unresolved, the Chinese food industry will face serious outcomes and will become a big obstacle in the near future for urbanization path. Therefore, the supervision and improvement of current Chinese food safety issue is severe and without delay. They could be improved through copying the standards from developed countries to perfecting China’s current system and encourage consumers for participations on the foundation of free to express and right to know. Food scandals are destroying Chinese reputations in and out of the state. It is now the turning point for China according to the developing pattern from other countries like Japan and South Korea. The food safety problems can’t be ignored and Chinese government should stop the problem from happening.

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Chinese Frequent Food Safety Incidents. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Chinese Frequent Food Safety Incidents

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