- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

China: Poisoned pets, our food regulations

Categories: East Asia, North America, China, U.S.A., Economics & Business, Environment, Food, Governance, Health, International Relations

With American FDA officials on the way [1] to China to get to the bottom of the inclusion of the toxic chemical melamime in pet food [2] exported to the United States, now known to have been responsible for at least several thousand cat and dog deaths [3], what do Chinese netizens have to say?

Pheonix TV anchor Rose Luqiu [4] has a fascinating post [5] on the issue, ‘Who's supervising China's food safety? [5]‘ in which she writes:


Official Chinese statistics show that in 2005 there were 9,021 people struck with food poisoning, 235 of which died. Of those who died, over half the deaths were due to consumption of food contaminated with chemical matter. But the World Health Organization's numbers are much higher. They say it's hard to make an accurate diagnosis in many cases from rural China, that official numbers seem very low. They also say that the number of people affected by food hygiene each year amounts to three hundred million cases. They estimate that the the medical costs and damages created due to food poisoning in China each year to be somewhere between 4.7 and 14 billion yuan.

Comments from her readers:

2007-04-11 05:38:55


‘Wait until the pig gets fat and then kill it': this is the attitude with which many administrative departments treat penalties. For a country having just begun developing, maybe these sorts of practices are reasonable. But penalties on food products should be a little more severe; after all, this concerns people's life safety.

2007-04-11 07:35:26


When problems occur, it's usually the case that people outside China know first, and then the news makes its way in, leaving a lot of people panicking. Our supervision departments have only started inspections now, giving rise to debate. When all's said and done, it's still the people who pay the price. But then, the methods those merchants resort to just for profits are really quite evil. It seems like the supervision departments only concern themselves with handing out admission licences. When these accidents happen, they should give everyone a bit of reassurance.

2007-04-11 07:47:28


I believe that the pet foods creating problem in America could possibly have been made in China, because the lengths Chinese people will go just for a buck have already reached great heights.
I wonder if the food safety problem will attract the attention of the appropriate departments, because no matter how much attention the people pay to food safety, they still can't get safe food at its sources, nor can everyone go plant their own crops or raise their own pigs to ensure food safety.

2007-04-11 08:07:03


The questions of food and medicine safety that Rose mentions is a major incident relating to people's life safety. If the government is concerned about people's well-being, they should start from these two problems. Government departments should squabble a little less over trifles. They should put these lawbreaking operations out of business, make them unable to ever engage in production again. For illegal foods and medicines, they must raise the cost of breaking the law, make an example to warn others.

2007-04-11 08:16:57


When I was young, I often heard ‘service for “the people”,’ and as I got older, the more confused I became. Aren't we members of “the people”? As the economy keeps expanding, the more pressing reform to the political system becomes. Without saying we must immediately hold elections or have a multi-party system, there's still a lot of space for government institutions in which to reform. We ought to be drawing lessons from economically developed nations.

2007-04-11 08:17:17


Makes sense. The crux of the problem is that laws and regulations are already complete, but they have yet to be effectively or practically implemented. ‘There must be laws and the rule of law must be strictly enforced’ has already become empty talk, in addition there are too many supervisory departments. The gray area is too wide, giving the bad business the opportunity they need.

2007-04-11 08:47:41


Well said. The government's conduct just doesn't cut it, or you could say they're just not doing anything.

2007-04-11 09:03:12


The government's seriousness is lacking.

2007-04-11 09:29:14


The government has no sense of responsibility, and they don't need to be blaming the people for their own neglect of duty. The people don't have supervisory authority. I think this is the core of many problems.

2007-04-11 10:19:06


Exactly, problems of food safety concern everybody's health.
I remember once at our school cafeteria when students got food poisoning after eating there.
Later the related department shut that cafeteria down.
Whenever there's a problem, you just put one department on it.
If there are too many departments taking care of it, nobody ends up taking care of it.
When something goes wrong, the related departments keep shifting responsibility back and forth between them.

2007-04-11 10:50:14


Did anyone in China report on this?
No, they're all stuck on the KFC's part-time wages story!

2007-04-11 11:11:56


All Chinese know that the food they eat every day has no safety guarantee, but we can't not eat! What are supposed to do? You can only just console yourself, it's a lot better than starving to death!

2007-04-11 15:08:09


The market is considered the best weapon, but who leads the market? Both the watchdog media and the government, they all say deep-fried foods are harmful to one's health, but how many countries on earth have eliminated deep-fried foods? Because market demand exists.
The politicization of the media is not something that can be overlooked. Who upholds this country's interests? America blames China for this or that, but are they really treating us fairly?

2007-04-11 15:12:53


I work in a tumor hospital. The place where I grew up is a now a chemical plant. The rate of cancer of the esophagus there is terrifying. My families have several victims. Those that don't have the money just have to wait to die. Our hospital estimates that ten years from now, out of a hundred Chinese, six of them will develop a tumor, and this is what we feel is a conservative estimate.

2007-04-11 16:03:05

这能都怪不良厂家吗?客户要求便宜便宜再便宜,价格到一定程度厂家就会想办法降低成本,以次充好等等手段来保持利润.记得有看过一稿,写英国送囚犯到澳洲, 刚开始以上船人数算钱给船主,但囚犯死亡率非常高,监督拉等等方法都不能制止,后来以上岸人数算钱,船主千方百计让囚犯活下去,死亡率就一下降低了.主要是在该出如什么有效的制度,而不是靠人的良心或其它什么的来阻止.

Can this all be blamed on bad manufacturers? Clients demand cheaper, cheaper, and cheaper still, until the price is so low the manufacturers will think of ways to lower costs, shoddy quality and other ways to maintain profits. I remember seeing one report about England sending its convicts to Australia. At the beginning they paid the captain for the numbers of people on board, but the convict death rate was quite high, supervision and other methods weren't helping. Later, they began paying by the numbers of people walking onto shore, the captain was able to think of a million different ways to keep the convicts alive, and the death rate plummeted. The main point is that an effective system needs to be come up with, not relying on something like people's conscience to prevent [problems].

2007-04-11 17:00:14


Makes a lot of sense. Too many administrations result in nobody administrating anything!

2007-04-12 00:53:22


China is not a country under rule of law: not just the Constitution, but food laws too.
Chinese lives are cheap; when people die from [food] poisoning, there's no holding supervisory departments financially accountable. This poisoning of American doggies is a huge liability, though. Different than if it were Chinese lives lost to food poisoning, this is actually a big deal.

Comments mostly trickle off by the 15th, but then this was left on April 27:


In China, just as long as nobody dies, nobody pays any attention. To say money is to blame for the recurring coal mine and food safety problems is useless because there's such a large group of corrupt officials looking out for [those responsible].