China / Society

Regulators blamed for expired meat scandal

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-23 16:47

BEIJING - Some 43.3 percent of Chinese netizens commenting on the country's latest food safety scandal direct their anger toward poor supervision, said a report in Wednesday's China Youth Daily.

The analysis, undertaken by the major daily's research department, is based on 2,000 posts randomly sampled from about 1.6 million on social media from Sunday to Tuesday, according to the report.

On Sunday, a Shanghai TV station exposed Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd., a supplier to a fast food chains including McDonald's and KFC, as selling products containing expired meat.

Most netizens complained about authorities failing to discover the violation in their daily inspections of Shanghai Husi and its clients.

The report quoted one post as saying that regulators should be charged for malfeasance.

An anonymous official with the local food and drug safety administration told the China Youth Daily that regulators may be complacent when inspecting big companies like Shanghai Husi, a unit of US-based OSI Group.

Also, most inspectors just check invoices to see whether a producer buys from qualified suppliers and sample a few products to check their appearance. Rarely do they conduct chemical tests on products unless there is a tip-off about malpractice, according to the source.

Modern production of processed food has been divided into various stages and the whole chain can be undermined if one individual player is guilty of malpractice, said Zhong Kai, an assistant research fellow with the China National Center For Food Safety Risk Assessment.

In this case, it appears that one supplier has compromised a number of food companies, Zhong said.

Many Internet users look to harsher legislation for the solution, with 20.1 percent of the analyzed posts calling for harsh penalties for food crimes.

Under the current Food Safety Law, offenders who trade expired food face fines of up to 10 times the value of their products. If the products are worth less than 10,000 yuan ($1,600 dollars), those involved can be fined a maximum of 50,000 yuan. The penalty is clearly not enough of a deterrence.

A bill to revise the Food Safety Law was tabled for its first reading at China's top legislature last month. It pledges harsher sanctions for offenders and a stricter food safety supervision system.

For instance, the bill raises the fine for offenders to up to 30 times the value of their products.

Shanghai police said on Wednesday that they have detained five people involved in the scandal.

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