In recent weeks, China passed an anti-food waste law, banning restaurant patrons from ordering more food than necessary. This strange and confusing legislative order could turn the eating experience on its head for millions of Chinese.
The law came into effect earlier this month as a center point to a Chinese anti-food waste campaign. Xi Jinping, Chinese president, referred to the food waste problem in China as “distressing,” noting that it is one that threatens the food security of the country.
Mukbang, a popular type of viral video that involves filming videos of oneself binge-eating, is now on the prohibited list.
Is China In A Food Shortage?
As of today, there is no evidence that suggests China is in a food shortage. In August, however, Xi launched the country’s food-saving campaign in order to offset the economic detriment as a consequence of COVID-19. In essence, the food-saving campaign became a wake-up call for the country to begin saving its food supply.
With supply chain disruptions throughout the world, the United Nations’ World Food Programme noted tens of millions of people around the world pushing on the brink of starvation.
Of course, enforcing this new law is the real challenge for Chinese authorities.
Recently, Chinese officials were sent out to company canteens to check for food waste. “N-1” meals are a large part of culinary industry standards in China, which state that the number of dishes in any given event should be less than the number of guests.
Offering smaller portions was an easy fix for many restaurants. A Changsha restaurant went as far as putting a scale at the entrance where guests walked in, determining meals for them based on their weight.
Government censors removed many popular binge-eating videos from Douyin as well, which is the mainland Chinese version of the popular short-form video platform, TikTok.
Chinese Food Waste
According to the Chinese state media, 35 million tons of food goes to waste every single year in China. Compared to the United States, which wastes next to 66 million tons of food each year, the number seems minuscule.
The new law states that restaurants may be fined up to $1,550 for allowing customers to make excessive food orders. Online media companies and TV stations can be fined next to $16,000 for creating or promoting videos surrounding binge-eating.
Diners and banquet organizers must now order the correct amount of food according to the law as well.
As of today, it is still unclear how the rule will be enforced for individuals ordering food, as there are no explicit fines for offenders. Many believe this new law contradicts Chinese customs of ordering more food than necessary to demonstrate hospitality and wealth.
Internet users are now questioning whether this food waste crackdown infringes on the human right to live freely.
A contest from a popular Chinese pop group was suspended this past week after it asked viewers to purchase milk products in support of their favorite contestants. Reports came in that viewers were pouring the drinks down the drain.