School Food Poisoning

There are two major stories that have been grabbing headlines over the summer: the rising cost of everything, and a growing number of food safety concerns. As the school year begins, it seems these two issues have converged in a way that could have deadly effects.

In many parts of China school lunch prices are not actually set by the schools themselves, but by local gov’t mandates. This means that when the cost of pork, or other ingredients, increases for the school, the price to the students has to remain the same. Since actions to raise the price would not be welcomed (there have been mini-riots in schools that tried this, even when inflation was much lower), cafeterias are left with two options: one being to decrease the amount of food each student receives (or just the amount of meat, as pork prices have risen sharply over the last year); or two, seek lower quality ingredients and hope for the best.

At the hospital where I work there has been a noticeable decline in the quality of the food since I started here last fall (we are also resisting increasing the cost of the set meal for workers). My favorite dish, shizitou (狮子头), essentially a ball of steamed ground pork, has become increasingly disappointing. It now seems to be equal parts meat and flour, which leaves it with a gritty, pasty texture. Many of my co-workers have responded by bringing their own food from home. However, given the options, I’m glad the hospital has taken this route (although there are whispers of food safety problems even in the hospital’s dining room).

In many parts of China though, it seems that schools have opted to reduce the quality of their ingredients. It is scary to imagine the quality of ingredients in a meal that costs a student roughly $.50, and still allows a profit margin for the school. During the first week of classes alone, more than 185 students were hospitalized due to food poisoning.

While the government claims that inspections are being ramped up to limit food related scandals, I have relatively little faith in the inspectors or the schools to actually take the actions needed to prevent future problems (I say I am skeptical because at one of the university cafeterias where I worked in Guangxi rat poison was accidentally added to the food). More regulations and “inspections” do nothing to actually address the root of the problem: safe food is too expensive.

This is a worrying start, and a trend that I fear will become worse as the Chinese gov’t continues to struggle with rising food costs, and until inflation comes under control, China’s children are at risk.

About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
This entry was posted in Life in China and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to School Food Poisoning

  1. Westlake says:

    Yes Tom, you totally see the cause of these poisoning, and One reason contributed to the food price is the China highway system charged too much from lorry transportation,which is a main mean of food commute, pushing the food price in a considerable level.

  2. King Tubby says:

    I cant find the reference, but food regulation in China is spread over six or so departments at the provincial level, thus its inefficiency, which can also be attributed to the lack of suitable training for inspectors.
    Sooner or later there will be a truly massive poisoning incident, and it which really shake the social harmony rhetoric.

  3. me says:

    I think the best solution for those six or so departments is just to create another one to manage them all. Fight fire with fire…

  4. Pingback: 译者 | 《译者》每日原文推荐 – 2011/9/9 | 中国数字时代

  5. Pingback: The Shanghai metro crash should have been avoided – reactions from Chinese friends | Seeing Red in China

  6. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s