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Chinese Government Declares War on Food Waste

Recently the Chinese government launched a new “clean plate” campaign, striking at the heart of dining culture in China. China’s thousands of years of food culture dictates that ordering extra dishes and leaving food behind are ways to demonstrate generosity toward one’s relatives, clients, business partners and important guests. Traditionally, in a group setting, empty plates are seen as a sign of a bad host - suggesting that an insufficient amount of food was ordered for guests.

Foreign business people having visited China in the past may remember the extravagant banquets thrown by officials. Ever since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, he has fought against any form of excess, including food waste. In the same year, the "Operation Empty Plate" mainly targeted extravagant feasts and receptions held by officials, resulting in the closing down of many restaurants which generated a large portion of their revenue from Chinese officials spending government money.

This new call for gastronomic discipline is aimed at the general public and also targets livestreaming by extreme eater influencers, recording themselves eating vast amounts of food. Chinese citizens are advised to keep a sense of crisis because of vulnerabilities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about China’s ability to feed its 1.4 billion people, partially also due to the recent floods in the South of China, threatening food supplies. Such habits have contributed to an estimated 18 million tons of food being discarded annually, an amount that could feed 30 million to 50 million people for a year, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Science and the World Wildlife Fund. 


This is an abstract from an article written by Bart Horsten and published on the Green Seed International Newsletter on 8 October 2020. Green Seed Group is an international food marketing company.

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