Chinese media mounts scrutiny of food quality

China’s central government has encouraged more media scrutiny of its increasingly tainted quality of food, ranging from milks and buns with chemical additives, filthy cooking oil to tainted pork and beef.

The relentless headlines in Chinese newspapers and online news have churned up “queasy feelings for months about the dangers lurking in the nation’s dinner bowls”, The Associated Press observed in a weekend story filed from Beijing.

The government has been encouraging local press to fathom to the problems of food quality to help it monitor the industry better and try to protect the health of the people.
“The shift underscores official alarm over the scope of China’s food safety problems and a recognition that government inspectors alone aren’t going to be able to tackle it,” the AP report said.

Zhang Yong, the director of the executive office of the cabinet-level Food Safety Commission, recently praised the media’s “important watchdog role” after being asked why journalists have frequently able to find food safety problems before inspectors.

Many challenges lie in the way of cleaning up the rampant use of illegal additives and drugs, which are often churned out by makeshift chemical factories, making them particularly hard to trace, the report said.

The problems persist despite a crisis in 2008 when six babies died and 300,000 were sickened from drinking infant formula tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

The scandal prompted the government to overhaul how it polices food, forming a cabinet-level food safety commission and passing a comprehensive new food safety law.

The latest wave in media coverage has zeroed in on parts of the fast growing food industry.
In early March state broadcaster China Central Television ran a segment on its Weekly Quality Report show revealing that pork from Henan Shuanghui, the country’s largest meat producer, contained the banned drug clenbuterol.

After the news broke, Shenzhen-listed Shuanghui’s shares plunged 10 percent and the government ordered nationwide inspections of pork to ferret out other stocks tainted with the drug, which speeds up the conversion of fat to muscle, producing leaner meat but that can cause health problems for humans.

A similar hidden camera report on another CCTV channel a month later revealed how a steamed bun factory in Shanghai was taking expired bread, mixing it with food coloring and sweeteners and repackaging it. The Shanghai Shenglu food plant was closed.

By People’s Daily

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