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CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

Chinas Food Industry: Food Safety Concerns


Katherine Wright
University of Texas at San Antonio

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

Chinas Food Industry: Food Safety Concerns


Over recent years China has seen an increase in contaminated foods, which has
caused concern in the United States about importing food from China. Government
control, lack of enforced food safety procedures and a lack of knowledge about
contamination and hygiene all add to the ongoing food safety issue within the country of
China. In order to address chemically contaminated foods, nutritionally deficient food
and all food that does not meet the United States food regulations, those in the United
States should not consume these foods until clear resolutions to these issues are brought
about. Ultimately the United States should not be importing food from China unless it
passes food inspections that the US holds to its own food.
The majority of produce in China comes from small farms. The Chinese
government has certain regulations on farmers that make it hard for them to make enough
to live off of. A national food policy activist and journalist, Nancy Huehnergarth (2014)
claims, The government limits the profit farmers can make off their goods in order to
control inflation. As a result, many farmers have a hard time making ends meet, so they
seek ways to improve per acre yields via chemicals. As a result of these chemicals,
according to the Huffington Post (2011) two years ago watermelons exploded in the
fields because they had grown too quickly. In order to make them grow faster and larger,
an unspecified chemical was added. Farmers have their own gardens devoid of chemicals
for their own consumption which makes an important point in regards to how chemically
laden most crops are.
Reducing the many chemicals that are added to the soil would be the first
step to addressing Chinas food safety concern. These chemicals tend to contaminate the

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

soil with a recent study finding that 20 percent of the farmland in China is contaminated.
However, because the government tends to control this type of information, this study is
considered to be very out of date and the percentage low. Another major way in that the
soil is contaminated and therefore the crops, is through the water. According to the article
The Groundwater of 90% of Chinese Cities is Polluted by Barry van Wyk (2013):
Fujian province today reports that the groundwater of 90% of Chinese cities is polluted
to some degree, and that of around 60% is severely polluted. There have been many
other findings as well such as sewer being drained 1,000 meters below ground using
high-pressure wells to pump the sewage. There will need to be regulations set in place
that will be able to monitor farmers usage of chemicals. If China decides to allow
chemicals on crops there needs to be set allowance of the amount used. Without good
health safety regulations these events will continue to take place without consequence.
So far it has been shown that China has a problem with the safety of its food,
there are many reasons why this is and another of the major reasons is that the
governmental food safety administration in China does not impose strict regulations on
food. Yongning Wu argues To effectively eliminate the problem, it is necessary to
increase the penalties for violations, as well as to build an honest-credit system of food
safety. In reality China has never really had a strong food safety administration. Because
of this there have been more and more cases of infection and disease. One recent food
scandal was the overtly high amounts of melamine found in milk. Melamine is rich in
nitrogen and so when nitrogen-based tests are run on the milk it makes the milk seems to
have more protein. Because of the deceit of incorporating this chemical into the milk
China has seen thousands of children hospitalized. According to Leon Gussow, China is

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

now coming to terms with 296,000 children who have kidney injury caused by melaminetainted milk; almost 53,000 of whom required hospital admission (more than 800 remain
inpatients) and six died. ( 4) To keep these types of occurrences from happening there
need to be food safety regulations that are used consistently and persistently.
A major reason why foods are being contaminated is because they dont have
enough nutrients in them. Establishing healthy crops is important to the health of the
consumer and society at large. By containing enough nutritional value, produce will not
need to be added to. The melamine was added to the milk to increase the protein content.
There are many other foods and crops that are supplemented because they were not given
the proper environment to achieve their full nutrient value. Many times the soil is
depleted leaving crops very low in the nutrients they normally would have an abundance
of. Therefore soil conditions must be right for the crops to grow in. They must not be
overly sprayed with pesticide and they must be given enough time to reestablish nutrients
in the soil. According to the international zinc association (2011), China launched a
cooperative project to study and promote zinc fertilizer use in Chinese agriculture. It has
been proven that China is the largest consumer of fertilizer in the world with an average
of 48 million tonnes being consumed each year. This turns out to be about 31% of the
worlds total fertilizer consumption. This is still another reason to avoid food grown in
China until methods change.
Lastly, there have been cases of forged food. This has been embarrassing for
China because according to the New York Times (2011), just as they arrive at having
enough to eat they run into this fake food scandal. They go on to say that most of this
type of business is sought after because of money. Time Magazine revels that venders set

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

up in the streets with their fake eggs that are made from mixtures of resin, starch, and
sodium alginate depending on whether it is the white or the yokes being replicated.
Though there are efforts to stop these food scandals, it isnt enough. The New York Times
(2011) suggests that Scandals are proliferating, in part, because producers operate in a
cutthroat environment in which illegal additives are everywhere and cost-effective.(p. 8)
Because the food inspectors are not very many and operate using a random sampling
technique, having better regulations and inspectors following those regulations would
diminish unfortunate cases where China is distributing fake foods. Much of the food is
unregulated and farmers simply continue malpractice even after a government order to
discontinue a certain chemical or method of preparation. Fake eggs were found very often
in restaurants. Many citizens are outraged and worry about how safe their food is.
Some suggest that China no longer has these issues and that they have a food
regulation system in place to protect its people. A step in the right direction was taken in
October 2011 when the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment was
established. A ProQuest information report on food safety rules announced that the
Shanghai Health Supervision Institute set rules for restaurants and companies on food
safety. However, while it is true that Chinas government regulatory centers for food
safety are on the move, this is not the type of situation that goes away quickly. China has
been facing mismanagement in agriculture for years and the underground method of
getting past any regulations set up by the government is very ingrained amongst some
local farmers. The food remains of poor quality still and should be avoided if possible.
Ultimately, what needs to be done is what is best for the people. If the farmers are
put under pressure by the government to produce a certain amount there will be a greater

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

likelihood of bad chemicals being used so the farmers meet that quota. This government
control is the source of much of Chinas food issues. There also needs to be a better
regulatory system to check the safety of food as it travels from farm to family table or
from farm to restaurant. Random checks alone, as was mentioned above, do not provide
the certainty that the food will remain safe until it is consumed. Though most people have
a basic understanding to keep clean, this type of regulation of foods cleanliness must be
supported by the government and amble regulations it sets. Otherwise as has been shown
there will be problems with every aspect of food safety from contamination, nutrient
deficient foods and even fake foods. This caused great discord within the country and is a
potential threat to those countries that import from China. It is wise that the United States
and any other country, which imports foods from China, discontinue that practice or have
the foods rerun through their own food safety regulation producers upon entering the
country until China has established the above regulations and food is confirmed safe.

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References

CHINAS FOOD INDUSTRY: FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

Gussow, L. (2009). Melamine and DEG Food Contaminations Poison Thousands.


Emergency Medicine News, 31, 13, 17.
Huebnergarth, N. (2014, July 11). Chinas Food Safety Issue Worse Than You Thought.
Food Safety News. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/07/chinas-food-safetyissues-are-worse-than-you-thought/#.VRFbe2b8Mjg
LaFraniere, S. (2011, May 7). In China, Fear of Fake Eggs and Recycled Buns. The
New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
Lancet, The. (2009). "Melamine and Food Safety in China." The Lancet. Vol 373.
http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet
Olesen, A. (2011, May 17). Watermelons Explode In Farm Fields in China. Huffington
Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com
Pei, Xiaofang, et al. "The China Melamine Milk Scandal and its Implications for Food
Safety Regulation." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article
Wu, Y., & Chen, Y. (2013) "Food Safety in China." Journal of epidemiology and
community health 67.6 (2013): 478.
Wyk, B. (2013, February 18). The groundwater of 90% of Chinese cities is polluted.
Danwei Financial Times. Retrieved from http://www.danwei.com
Zinc.org(2011).PeoplesRepublicofChinaMinistryofAgricultureandIZALaunch
ProjectonZincFertilizer.Retrievedfromhttp://www.zinc.org/applications/news