On the back of chinadialogue’s series of articles on food safety, our Beijing office hosted a "Food Safety Seminar" last week. The event brought together food-safety experts, NGO representatives, officials and a large audience of media, NGOs and students.
Also read: Download all our food safety articles in pdf format
Senior official Wang Guowei told the crowd that China was grappling with "three stages" of food safety at once: a period of frequent scandals, a period where efforts are made to tackle the problems and a period when solutions are found. In other countries, these phases have happened in sequence, said Wang, who is director of the State Council's department of food safety policy, but China is experiencing them simultaneously.
Tang Hao, a researcher at Sun Yat-sen University’s Centre for Civil Society, said that the safety problems were widespread across the industry, and so deeply ingrained in the food production chain that only stricter laws and better law enforcement would fix them. Even simple regulations are not being enforced at local level, he said.
Zhou Li, a professor of agriculture at China's Renmin University, pointed the finger at the raw pursuit of profit. Chasing low-costs and high-yields without thought for quality of life, social stability and national security, is a key driver of the scandals that continue to rock the food-production industry, she said.
But there was a positive note too: Shi Yan, a graduate student of community-supported agriculture at Tsinghua University, who has researched different types of public participation in food production, pointed out that China's increasing focus on food safety has triggered a growth in public interest in sourcing safer ingredients.
Visit our reports section to download all our food safety articles in pdf format.
This project is a collaboration between chinadialogue and the Institute for Civil Society at Sun Yat-sen University.
Translated and edited by chinadialogue volunteers Chris Hay and Hope Loudon respectively.