Written by (作者): Alexandra Kobylchenko?
Photos by (图片来源): thinkprogress.org, prweb.com
Are you well informed about what you eat? How often do you notice colorful food or beverages in advertisements? Do you think they’re trustworthy? In just one month, Chinese companies spend millions of dollars on advertising. For example, their total expenditure on online advertising alone may go up to $43 million (270 million RMB). In October 2014, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the multinational Belgian-Brazilian company that owns brands such as Budweiser and Stella Artois, spent $4.45 million (27 million RMB) on online advertising in China. Web portals, online video platforms and clientside?venues are the top three ad placement channels for food and beverage companies. Dairy products companies also have to spend some cash to get their products advertised. Inner Mongolia Yili Group and China Mengniu Dairy Co. are ranked 2nd and 4th in the top 10 Chinese food and beverage companies. Each month, they spend around 8 million RMB and 11 million RMB respectively on advertising.
All this spending, or most of it, works to mask some hard truths that would otherwise hurt such companies. For example, adverts for Sanlu Group products depict a smiling mother with her charming toddler, which is understandable as it’s a milk company. What you may not know is this is the same company that was involved in the 2008 Chinese milk scandal. They produced milk and infant formula along with other food material and components that were adulterated with melamine, which is a chemical used as a fire-retardant additive in paints, plastics and paper, and is known to cause kidney stones if ingested. Since then, concerns over food safety among the population have tripled. Such food scandals are no news, and tend to happen on a yearly basis in the country. Fake rice made of plastic pellets, imitation eggs made of gelatin and decades-old frozen meat destined for the market are just some of the?most talked about scandals. Some of these scandals are wide-scale and happen with large as well as some local manufacturers, but it doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous. Something called “sewer” oil is an issue that was brought up by a professor from Wuhan Polytechnic University in 2010. He estimated?that one in 10 meals in China is cooked using recycled oil produced by recycling waste oil from restaurant fryers, sewer drains, grease traps and sometimes even using slaughterhouse waste. These raw materials are processed using a combination of filtration, boiling and refining at some illegal plants set up on someone’s property. Sounds really disgusting and gross, but sometimes people can really come up with shocking and desperate means to earn more money.
After reading about such incidents related to food safety, you may wonder why the government hasn’t taken any action. After five years of drafting, in 2009 China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing?Committee passed the first comprehensive Food Safety Law (FSL), which was revised in 2015. The newly revised law imposes stricter controls and supervision on food production and management. The new law brought hope that people’s trust in Chinese-made food products would see more stricter regulations. But not many are optimistic about this innovation. It is one thing to draft a law, but enforcing it?is not that simple. China is a huge country with countless farmers and businesses, so the burden of responsibility isn’t for the government alone. To be certain, the FSL will bring some changes but actual progress will certainly be a slow process.
So far Ningbo hasn’t yet been shaken by any big food safety incidents. I sometimes hear from friends that they come across outdated food in the supermarket or some fake oranges, but nothing as bad as the?2008 milk scandal. Food safety is one of the greatest concerns of the Ningbo Municipal Government. Because 75% of food comes from other cities, Ningbo took the lead in 2007 by building a system that traces the sources of food. The key to food safety is prevention, and that’s why Ningbo strengthened the controls and attempted to establish pre-warning mechanisms. In 2009, the city completed the establishment of China’s first information co-sharing system for urban food tests and checks, which integrates information from all related administrative departments and labs. Today, the system can trace the sources of 10 kinds of food, with milk and meat amongst them. Using this system you can easily find?information on the place of production, supplier, variety, transport and sales. Ningbo is the first city in China that releases regular reports of food safety and has set an example for other cities.
It is certainly possible to prevent a disaster. On a larger scale, the government and manufacturers are the ones that must take responsibility. On a smaller scale, we should rely only on ourselves. I’ve gotten into the habit of looking into windows as I pass by or to watch people when they think no one is watching them, and even though it may not be polite, I believe this habit saved me many times from getting food poisoning or eating unhygienic food. Maybe consider adapting one of these habits. I hope all of you will only find clean and safe food on your tables!
Alexandra Kobylchenko is a 21-year-old student from Ukraine who was majoring in Chinese and English translation in her home country but wound up studying Chinese language at NBU. She fell in love with Ningbo and is currently studying International Business.
Alexandra Kobylchenko 是一个来自乌克兰的21 岁学生，曾在祖国主修中英文翻译，然后又到宁波大学学习中文。她很喜欢宁波这座城市，目前正就读于国际贸易专业。