Yiwei Lau: Please Inspect Baby Formula Strictly, Just As You Censor Films

Yiwei Lau (刘仪伟) is a well-known TV host at Shanghai Dragon Satellite Television. He was also once a lyricist and a film maker. This rather surprising commentary is from Shanghai-based News Morning (新闻晨报), translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan:

I have been worried recently (about the baby formula scandal) because my two-year-old daughter drinks milk made from milk powder daily. After the results of the national quality tests for dairy products were released, I was greatly relieved that the milk my daughter drinks was not tainted. Now I have the mood to write an article on this issue.

I have been asking myself the following questions: Why did it happen? Why did so many brand-name companies disregard the health and lives of infants? How could their products pass quality inspections, and why was it that some of them were even given inspection-free status by government agencies? We are ordinary citizens and not experts at testing baby formula. We rely on the conscience of companies and the credibility of government inspections to make sure our food is safe. But our trust has suddenly evaporated.

I’m sure the scandal would not have happened if government officials inspected baby formula as strictly as they inspect films.

Not a single film in China has been given an “inspection-free” status. Film directors are treated equally regardless of whether they are internationally renowned or if they’re just starting their career. Even films from top-notch directors are trimmed, revised, or pulled from distribution completely if there are any problems.

Censoring a film starts with inspecting its script. The government prohibits any changes to be made to the original script and inspects each step of the film’s production. Do officials do similar things with dairy products? Do they check our milk supply? A film would be revised again and again until it satisfies the censors. As for milk powder, there is an inspection-free policy which allows unqualified products to be sold directly to consumers. By contrast, there is a strict film recall system. Take the film Apple(苹果) as an example, it was pulled from all movie theaters across the country as soon as officials detected something wrong with it, and subsequently the company that produced the film had its license revoked. However, the dairy product company Sanlu still holds a production license even after the damage it’s caused.

Also, the impact of unqualified films is limited. The total ticket office revenue for all films in China was about 4.5 billion RMB in 2007. A film couldn’t have a large negative impact on society even if it had some problems. It wouldn’t hurt people in the audience or take their lives. Why can’t officials inspect baby formula as strictly as they censor films?

I heard that the government has canceled the inspection-free policy (for the dairy industry) in the wake of the scandal. Please inspect food as strictly as you inspect films so we don’t have to worry about food safety anymore.