Cooking oil scandal could prompt China to toughen food safety policies, observers say

Observers say Beijing does not appear to be trying to cover up the scandal, even though it came at a politically sensitive time before the end of the year. third plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which begins on Monday.
There was a limited number censorship Investigators said the probe involved a subsidiary of Sinograin, a state-owned grain producer, and a private company, Hopefull Grain and Oil Group. Both companies have launched their own investigations.

In addition to sparking a public outcry on social media, the report drew harsh criticism from state media over alleged wrongdoing.

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Leftover oil from Chinese fondue dishes reused to fuel airplanes

Leftover oil from Chinese fondue dishes reused to fuel airplanes

Wang Xiangwei, an associate professor at the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University, said Beijing appears to have adopted the attitude of “confronting this issue head-on.”

“Chinese netizens have so far been able to make sarcastic comments on the scandal. At the same time, the State Council has also taken immediate measures to set up a joint inspection team to tackle the problem,” said Wang, a former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post.

“Everything seems to indicate that they want to turn the scandal into an opportunity for the party to live up to Xi Jinping’s famous command: the party’s mission is to fulfill the people’s desire to live a happy life.”

President Xi Jinping The Chinese president has repeatedly vowed to tackle China’s notorious food safety problems. In a 2013 speech, he said his heart “became very heavy” when he thought about these problems and warned that the party’s legitimacy to rule would be called into question if it “failed to do even a good job on food safety.”

A mainland-based political analyst said that given the latest scandal, food safety will likely be discussed when the party’s Central Committee holds its third plenum starting Monday, and may be mentioned in the “resolution document” released after the meeting.

“The discussions, especially on reform, will certainly include this topic because it is the most crucial and important issue concerning people’s lives,” said the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the scandal would highlight the need for stronger regulatory oversight and could also impact affected Chinese exports and how they are transported.

Xie Maosong, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, agreed that food security could get “higher priority” in the final communiqué of the third plenum.

Meanwhile, the report that exposed the alleged wrongdoing shows that “media monitoring is indispensable in any country, especially in contemporary China,” according to Zhan Jiang, who was a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University before retiring.

He said this could lead to a change in the official mindset “which views media reporting on social issues and negative reports as disruptive and affecting stability.”

Investigative journalists have uncovered numerous food and drug safety scandals in China over the past few decades, including the case of baby formula contaminated with melamine, a chemical that led to the deaths of six infants.

But their job has become increasingly difficult as Beijing continues to tighten its control over the media.

Wang, of Baptist University, said the Beijing News report had exposed a major scandal and “demonstrated that investigative journalism on the mainland is not dead… despite the political climate.”

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