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Most people uneasy about what they eat

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2012-05-31 09:17

Exposure to repeated scandals has been 'a blow to public confidence', expert says.

A new poll shows the public generally has a negative attitude toward food safety in China, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying they feel conditions are unsafe.

The report was compiled by the Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Safety and the East China University of Science and Technology.

Released on Wednesday, the report aims to find firsthand information on how the public looks at the country's food safety issues, and to provide guidance for policymakers.

The research team polled 4,000 people from eight cities through questionnaires.

In their overall judgment on the country's food safety, more than 73 percent said they believe the food is unsafe, of which 27.8 percent chose "extremely unsafe".

"Such a negative attitude on food safety issues is caused by the continuous exposure of food safety scandals in recent years, which deal a blow to public confidence," said Ruan Zanlin, a food safety expert from the East China University of Science and Technology.

Meanwhile, 70 percent believe that the production and processing of food have the most undiscovered problems.

The safety of meat products causes the most concern among consumers, with 50 percent of respondents saying they are worried about it. Milk products followed with about 26 percent.

The public also had a negative judgment on food manufacturers, with 42 percent believing that products from food companies have become "more unsafe".

More than half of those polled said government supervision and inspection is far from effective, while about 27 percent said the supervision by related authorities is too weak.

Sixty-six percent said the punishment for illegal behavior is weak and needs to be heavier.

"Now the public has placed its hopes in protecting food safety on the government, so authorities should integrate their resources to strengthen supervision and deal a stronger blow to illegal behavior," Ruan said.

The report also found that television and radio are still the main channels for the public to obtain food safety knowledge and information. Nearly 32 percent believe that food advertising is just a marketing tool and has nothing to do with quality.

"The government should increase its information transparency, letting more people know what it has done in ensuring food safety, which will further improve consumer's confidence in food safety," said Xu Lai, a food supervision official in Shanghai.

The report was included in the 2012 Blue Book of Food and Drug Safety and Supervision Policy Research Report, which was published by the Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Safety.

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