In China, What You Eat Tells Who You Are

With food safety scandals often in the news, Chinese officials are not eager for the public to know the lengths they go to to ensure the safety of what they eat. This spring, a Chinese journalist investigated the private farms set up to plant organic crops, for official use only. The Los Angeles Times now reports on their suppliers: Until May, a sign inside the gate identified the property as the Beijing Customs Administration Vegetable Base and Country Club. The placard was removed after a Chinese reporter sneaked inside and published a story about the farm producing organic food so clean the cucumbers could be eaten directly from the vine. Elsewhere in the world, this might be something to boast about. Not in China. Organic gardening here is a hush-hush affair in which the cleanest, safest products are largely channeled to the rich and politically connected. Many of the nation’s best food companies don’t promote or advertise. They don’t want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine, which allows watered-down milk to pass protein-content tests. “The officials don’t really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food,” said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject. CDT published a translation of the investigative report from the Southern Weekend about the organic farms as well as propaganda directives ordering media and websites not to post the ...
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