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Whistleblowers in dire need for tighter supervision

English.news.cn   2014-07-22 20:57:17

By Xinhua writer Tian Ying

BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- In China's latest food scandal, people are appalled by a journalist's muckraking revelation that reprocessed stale meat was being supplied to fast-food chains including McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Shanghai-based Dragon TV aired a news program on Sunday claiming that Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd had supplied stale meat to a string of multinational fast food chains across China, showing shots collected by the undercover journalist over a period of two months, and interviews with an informant.

Whistleblowers, once again, have uncovered filthy secrets that would have otherwise been kept from the public. The public are once again disappointed at regulation enforcers and corner-cutting producers.

As the country is struggling to bring its fledgling regulatory and credit system in shape, whistleblowers are desperately needed to subsidize the country's flawed market supervision.

Whistleblowers are frequently seen in the nation's food safety scandals, including the shocking "gutter oil" - or recycled cooking oil - scandal.

The Shanghai Husi case is reminiscent of "The Jungle", a piece of work published in 1906 by U.S. novelist Upton Sinclair, that depicts appallingly unsanitary practices of the American meat packing industry back then.

Sinclair spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in a meat packing plant in Chicago.

The novel, upon publication, aroused such a vehement public response that it led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. The latter act established what later turned to be the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.

In what appears to be a modern, Chinese version of "The Jungle", public pressure is also piling up for the country's food regulatory system to improve.

The China Food and Drug Administration on Monday asked local authorities to scrutinize the violating company's branch factories nationwide.

Although regulatory corrections seem to be patchy and piecemeal, if more fact-based tipping-off cases sprang up, hefty enough public pressure will lead to real changes.

Moreover, when regulation loopholes mean some crooked manufacturers can get away with their dirty business, whistleblowers provide a second line of supervision.

However, relying on whistleblowers is no long-term solution, rather, a make-do remedy. As no regulation proves perfect worldwide, market players themselves should have strong enough incentives to behave, perhaps an unaffordable price to pay upon any transgressions.

But for now, with more whistleblowers playing watchdog, the public do not have to wait years for the food safety situation to improve while gulping poisonous food.

Editor: An
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