China Offers Reward for Food Safety Informers

CDT previously reported on the tightening of food safety regulations in China. Despite these actions towards better food safety, concerns continue. China is now planning to offer up to a $48,000 reward for food safety informers, from Reuters:

 China will offer up to 300,000 yuan($48,200) as a cash reward to people who report on others who violate food safety laws, state media said on Tuesday, as the government tries again to crack down on a persistent problem.

“Actions taken to report violations of food and drug safety laws will be rewarded,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The reward for each case, in principle, will not exceed 300,000 yuan.”

Rewards will be paid out after the authorities confirm the veracity of the tip-offs, the report said.

Repeated campaigns to crack down on the problem and the meting out of tough punishments have failed to bring an end to China’s food safety woes.

This plan to reward informers comes amid a recent food scandal involving Yum Foods, the parent company of KFC. Xinhua claims that foreign companies are ‘digging their own graves’ by eroding the trust of their Chinese customers:

News of tainted chicken sold by the company was reported on Dec 18 by China Central Television, which conducted an undercover investigation of the company’s suppliers in east China’s Shandong province. The investigation revealed that some suppliers were using excessive amounts of antiviral drugs and hormones to make the chickens grow more quickly.

Yum apologized to customers in China on Jan 10, admitting shortcomings in the company’s self-checking process and a lack of internal communication.

As a US-based food giant, Yum should know negative publicity can be fatal. In 2008,videotaped mistreatment of cows at a California slaughterhouse prompted the largest meat recall in US history. The subsequent penalties caused the Hallmark Meat Co to go bankrupt.

Yum’s understated apology is rooted in its arrogance and propensity for unfairly treating Chinese consumers, who usually regard foreign brands as being safer and of higher quality than domestic brands. Other multinational companies have displayed the same attitude,capitalizing on loopholes in Chinese law and regulations to escape punishment.

Aside from Yum, French hypermart chain, Carrefour, and German automaker, Volkswagen, were also slammed by Xinhua, Bloomberg reports:

Christoph Ludewig, Volkswagen’s Beijing-based spokesman, said in an e-mail that customer satisfaction is the carmaker’s first priority and the company “always safeguards consumer rights.” Liu Huanyu, a spokeswoman for Bluefocus, Carrefour’s external public relations agency in China, could not immediately comment on the Xinhua editorial.

Chinese companies have also been scrutinized for safety issues. Xinhua reported on Nov. 22 that the nation’s quality watchdog had found excessive levels of plasticizer in drink samples of Chinese liquor-maker JiuGuiJiu Co. (000799)

Read more about food safety in China, via CDT.

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