June 25th, 2012 | Global Times Safe food is not the exclusive right of a privileged few
York Chow, Secretary for Food and Health in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, told Guangzhou Daily Thursday that 99.999 percent of the food supplied from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong is safe. This compliment has been met with a wave of strong criticism from mainland consumers. The following unavoidable question here is why food supplied to Hong Kong could reach such a high safety level while mainland residents have to suffer seemingly endless food safety scandals.
People are mocking it as the result of the “one country, two systems” policy in the food safety field. But obviously, high quality food can also be guaranteed to a specific group of people. Before the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft was launched on June 16th, marking another historic space journey, public attention was partially shifted to the astronauts’ special diet, including milk from cows strictly cut off from agricultural chemicals and fish bred in completely natural environments without ingesting artificial additives.
Earlier this year, the media reported on the clean food supply for some of the Chinese athletes taking part in the London Olympic Games. Athletes were reportedly banned from eating meat outside their training bases. In recent years, more doping cases involving Chinese athletes have been tied to suspicious meat supplies that contained lean meat additives.
Food safety has become an increasingly sensitive topic and a test of government credibility. It makes the public particularly angry when the media uncovers special food production bases for various government and military agencies, while the existence of such special food production bases is denied.
The special food supplied to astronauts and athletes is nothing more than organic products free of chemical pesticides and additives. They may be relatively expensive but are not difficult to produce and supply to the majority of consumers. But organic food sold in supermarkets is often found to be problematic. The difference might lie in the emphasis the regulator has placed on it.
For many years, it has been a priority for mayors and even governors to ensure stable supplies of food including vegetables and eggs, and make sure the price is within affordable range. These are called “shopping basket projects,” with the name suggesting the importance of this issue to governments.
The quantity of food supply is no longer a serious problem in most regions of China, but quality has become a nagging one for now. If the country is able to send more astronauts into space, it should be able to tackle the food safety issue, as long as government agencies put enough emphasis on it.
By Fu Qiang