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B BRIEFING


Food safety in China F


ully sustainable organic meat farms, crops nourished with pure filtered rainwater and cattle cared for using traditional medicine are perhaps not the first things that spring to mind when thinking about the Chinese food production system.


But in a country where the subject of food safety is constantly bubbling away like a spicy Sichuan hotpot, a surprising number of food producers are adapting their production methods in an effort to drive sustainable change and continue raising an industry standard that has already seen significant upheaval. One of the biggest barometers for progress in the Chinese food industry is the dairy sector which, in large part as a response to the tainted baby-milk formula scandal in 2008, has paved the way for a number of ethical dairy suppliers to implement reform.


Safer milk


According to Clara Pi FCSI, Hong Kong- based nutritionist and director of FCG, the fallout of the milk formula scandal was far-reaching and is still being felt some seven years later. “The melamine incident has become a political issue and a cause of social unrest as people in China are flocking to Hong Kong to buy infant milk formula, in turn causing a shortage for Hong Kong residents,” she says. “The only way to resolve this is to revamp the milk industry in China.”


One such example of the overhaul to which Pi refers is the Green Yard dairy,


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Raising the standards and quality of Chinese farming practices, while keeping up with growing demand, has become imperative. Tim Neesham investigates what is being done to ensure food security


actually founded a year before the scandal in question by a group headed by farmer Wang Zhanli. Widely recognised as the first fully organic dairy in China, Green Yard prides itself on putting in place production practices that meet or even exceed those in Europe. And although Chinese milk consumption still relies heavily on imports, ventures pioneered by those such as Green Yard have undoubtedly been a success. In a 2014 visit to the Yili dairy, China’s largest dairy company, president Xi Jinping praised the way it has helped instigate new business strategies on “quality comes first” and “technology- driven innovations” to enable product and process traceability via QR codes and scanning by mobile phones.


Better meat


The meat industry has come under particularly heavy scrutiny, none more so than in the sale of mislabelled and expired meat by several fast-food giants in 2014. Issues such as this have seen the evolution of organic farms like Huimingshan, located in the mountains of southwest


“As people in China are beginning to realise the importance of food safety and healthy eating habits, things such as health food restaurants and retailers are becoming popular”


Anhui province, and the Natural Poultry Group (NPG), a poultry supplier committed to the highest standards of biosecurity and animal welfare. USDA figures show that pork consumption in China surpassed 50 million tonnes in 2012, making it the meat of choice for Chinese consumers. But rather than jump on the industrialised pork production bandwagon, Zhu Xianwen from Huimingshan describes how the company is striving to do things differently; “We at Huimingshan are part of a national ecological demonstration zone where sustainable farming methods are practised to lower the carbon footprint and protect the environment. “The result is a business philosophy that supports the growth of the organic food industry in China, an entire farm that follows fully organic practices, and a high


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